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GAO reveals hazards faced by meat processing workers

The meat processing industry is full of hazards, so anyone connected to the business in Missouri will want to know that the Government Accountability Office has released a report meat processing. After interviewing 72 workers across five states, the GAO found several common hazards and recurrent injuries.

Workers often suffered from repetitive motion injuries, amputations, and cuts from tools like saws and knives. Respiratory illnesses are also prevalent; their cause has been traced to an antimicrobial chemical called peracetic acid, which is sprayed on meat.

Restrictions on bathroom access, usually to increase production output, are another issue. Because of delayed or denied bathroom breaks, workers in three of the five states suffered from kidney problems and other conditions. Nationwide, the issue is rarely mentioned as many fear retaliation from their employers.

The GAO also studied the efforts of organizations like OSHA to keep the more than 480,000 meat processing workers in the U.S. safe and healthy. It found that many factories lacked accessible first-aid stations and competent medical professionals; this, combined with the fear of penalties, has discouraged some workers from reporting injuries.

The report concludes with seven recommendations to OSHA. Among other steps, the OSHA could conduct off-site interviews with employees and update guidelines on how employers should manage their first-aid stations. The GAO's findings have also encouraged trade groups to act.

When workers are injured, they should report the accident to their employer and let him or her know that they will file for workers' compensation benefits. This is where a lawyer comes in. After a case assessment, the lawyer may find that negligence may be partly to blame: for example, an injury may have worsened because the onsite medical professional failed to detect it. In such cases, a lawyer may advise the victim to file an injury claim.

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