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Workplace injuries in slaughterhouses often go unreported

Workers in slaughterhouses and meat and poultry processing plants nationwide, including here in Iowa, are exposed to multiple injury hazards and, allegedly, appalling workplace environments. Although statistics show a decline in fatalities and workplace injuries in this industry, it is suspected that the recorded numbers do not reflect the reality. The Government Accountability Office says many injuries in the poultry and meat processing industry go unreported.

GAO said contractors often employ sanitary workers, cleaners and maintenance workers who suffer severed fingers, amputated limbs and even fatalities that may go unreported, or not included in industry data. It was also noted that a significant number of workers at meat processing plants are refugees or immigrants who may not report injuries to avoid jeopardizing employment income. Safety training may also be ineffective in cases in which there are language barriers.

In addition to amputations and other catastrophic injuries, workers in this industry are known to be susceptible to repetitive motion injuries. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said a recent study at a facility in another state found that as many as a third of the workers had symptoms typical of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, OSHA apparently received a limited number of reports concerning these injuries.

In Iowa and elsewhere, all employees have the right to a safe workplace environment. Victims of workplace injuries are entitled to pursue financial assistance that is available through the workers' compensation insurance system. A documented occupational injury or illness is compensable, and the insurance program typically provides monetary relief for medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: iowapublicradio.org, "We Don't Know How Many Workers Are Injured At Slaughterhouses. Here's Why", Grant Gerlock, May 25, 2016

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