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String of recent accidents highlights meatpacking dangers

Workers at meatpacking plants across Iowa and the United States face dangers every day while on the job, with those working in particular facets of the industry facing more risks than others. According to Iowa Public Radio, those who work in beef and pork-production facilities face higher risks of suffering injuries than those who work in poultry processing, but workers in all meat-processing plants report suffering injury at higher rates than those across the manufacturing field in its entirety.

The enhanced risk can be attributed, at least in part, to the nature of the business. Dismantling cows, pigs and other animals for processing and ultimately, consumption, requires the use of saw blades, conveyer belts and other inherently dangerous pieces of machinery, and the sheer amount of product coming through the doors of many meatpacking facilities tends to create chaos and a need for operating at a brisk pace.

Another likely factor lies in the fact that meatpacking industry businesses have historically received few sanctions and only nominal fines for safety infractions that can cause injuries or fatalities within their workforces. Though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the organization responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation in the workplace, it does not have the power to increase fines for infractions, which one former OSHA official believes would likely improve regulation compliance.

Per Fortune, a lack of appropriate sanctions foron-the-job injuries and fatalitiesis not specific to the meatpacking industry. Rather, it is something that prevails throughout business and industry in general. Nearly 400,000 on-the-job fatalities have occurred since the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed in 1970, with most of the companies involved receiving only minimal fines for their violations. Additionally, fewer than 100 of those more than 400,000 fatality cases ever made it to the courtroom. 

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