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Dangers faced by meat and poultry processors

If you are among the many who work in meat or poultry processing or production in America, you face unique hazards that place you at risk of injury, illness and, possibly, death. The severity of your risk of medical hardship is difficult to determine because many such injuries and illnesses are underreported.

Your job, however, is inherently dangerous, and you and your coworkers face specific career-related health issues because you make your living as a meat or poultry packer or processor.

Job-related risks

Per CBS News, about 526,000 meat and poultry processing employees are currently working across the nation, all of whom are at risk of injury and illness because of specific job-related hazards. Traumatic injuries caused by the use of heavy machinery and tools used for separation, for example, are common among meat and poultry workers, as is exposure to chemicals and pathogens, which can lead to disease.  

Furthermore, you run the risk of developing career-related musculoskeletal disorders because of your job in the meat packing and processing industry, many of which develop because of the prolonged standing and repetitive motions associated with the job.

Additional factors and issues

Compounding the problem, many believe, are high production demands, which lead many workers to work long hours with minimal breaks in order to increase output. Many workers in the poultry industry also report that their employers routinely deny them bathroom breaks during the workday, which can lead to additional health-related issues.

Underreporting at issue

Though the risks faced by meat and poultry packers and processors are considerable, it is unclear just how prevalent such injuries truly are, as underreporting of such injuries is a serious concern. Often, such job-related injuries and illnesses only become public knowledge when the person afflicted ends up taking time off work. Others feel that the underreporting problem is exacerbated by the fact that the industry employs many immigrant workers who may be fearful of coming forward if they are living or working in the country illegally.

There is some good news, however. The actual number of reported illnesses and injury rates for industry workers fell slightly recently, although it is still higher than it is for workers across the manufacturing industry as a whole. 

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