You might know that agriculture and meat processing are among the most important industries to the Iowa and Nebraska economies. You may also be aware that jobs in these fields are sometimes dangerous due to onsite hazards and overlooked safety measures. At the Law Offices of Gallner & Pattermann, P.C., we often serve on the frontlines of litigation involving occupational injuries and illnesses in these fields. We would like to take a moment to share some of the insights we have gained as legal and safety advocates for honest workers like you.
Food Processing Plant Safety Responsibilities
Your employer is responsible for keeping adequate safety levels in the facilities where you work. It is also likely your company or boss has practices and policies in place to keep the workplace safe.
Your employer should provide all workers with:
- Routine safety training
- Daily safety guidelines around the workplace
- Materials handling information
- Protective gear and equipment
Failing to provide these safety basics to all workers not only increases the risk of an accident in the workplace, but it also increases an employer’s liability if or when an on-the-job injury does happen. Workers’ compensation rules allow an injured worker to seek financial benefits without bringing up a question of liability. However, if an employer is found to be egregiously negligent in enforcing and encouraging workplace safety, then it might be possible for an injured worker to pursue additional damages – like punitive or pain and suffering damages – through a separate personal injury claim.
Encourage Safety Culture
You can help reduce your overall risk of injury while working in a meatpacking plant or agricultural facility. While your employer must educate you in basic jobsite safety measures, it does not hurt to review topics with your coworkers when time allows. By keeping everyone in your work area up-to-speed with safety procedures, you can reduce everyone’s risk of causing an accident.
Beware Repetitive Stress Injuries
You should also think about how to protect yourself from repetitive stress injuries or RSIs. Performing the same action again and again, as is often required of a meatpacking facility worker, can cause strains, sprains, ligament tears, and other painful injuries as time goes on. Performing stretches and exercises that focus on the skeletomuscular groups related to your job tasks will help reduce the chances of experiencing an RSI.
For example, if your role is packing meat products into boxes at the end of the machining line, then you will be using your hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders a lot. Use part of your breaks for stretches that focus on these areas. Ask your supervisor for additional break time to stretch if necessary.
Dangerous Chemical Exposures in Food Processing Plants
Reviewing the MSDS safety sheets for chemicals present in your workplace is also an important step to improve safety in agricultural and food industry settings. You should be able to find this information readily available in a public place, like outside or in the breakroom. You might be surprised to learn that common substances, such as ammonia or carbon dioxide, have the potential to be dangerous in certain situations. Even refrigeration equipment can cause harmful gas exposure if there is a leak or defect.
Everyone Can Help Improve Workplace Safety
In addition to chemical exposure and repetitive stress injuries, you may also be at risk for slip-and-fall accidents, biological hazards, and lacerations. Essentially, any part of your job can become dangerous when safety is not made the priority. To help prevent injuries to yourself and your team, learn about these hazards ahead of time and encourage others to do the same.
If you need the representation of a workers’ compensation attorney in Iowa or Nebraska after an on-the-job injury, call (712) 481-9066 to connect with Law Offices of Gallner & Pattermann, P.C. We focus exclusively on representation for the injured, and we have a history of taking cases for agricultural and meatpacking industry workers within our states.