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Multiple hazards impact meat and poultry processing workers

All agricultural jobs in Georgia include safety dangers, but a report from the Government Accountability Office highlights the numerous problems that confront workers in meat and poultry processing plants. Knives and hand saws result in cuts and sometimes amputations. Exposure to peracetic acid that is sprayed on meat to kill germs causes respiratory illnesses.

The GAO report also revealed that many workers feared retaliation from employers if they reported job injuries or spoke to inspectors. Workers often lacked access to appropriate first aid on the job or unbiased medical evaluations. In one case, a plant physician found nothing wrong with a woman's wrist when she reported severe pain. When she went to a physician not affiliated with her employer, she learned that she had a broken bone.

When inspectors did get to interview workers, they frequently heard about supervisors who denied people bathroom breaks for the sake of production speed. An inability to use the restroom caused workers to have health problems. A statement from Oxfam, an organization that advocates for workers, applauded the GAO report for confirming problems identified in other studies about the meat processing industry.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide a safe work environment. When a person does get hurt on the job, they have a right to make a claim for benefits through an employer's workers' compensation insurance. Someone obstructed by an employer when filing a claim or even reporting an injury might consult an attorney. With legal representation, a person may be able to file a complaint with regulators about workplace safety and pursue benefits for medical care. An attorney may prepare paperwork for the insurance claim and challenge a denial of benefits. If necessary, an attorney might file a lawsuit to seek compensation for the injured worker.

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