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New data reveals serious safety risks in U.S. meat plants

According to data, meat plant workers in the U.S. are three times as likely to suffer serious injuries as workers in other industries. In addition, beef and pork workers are seven times as likely to suffer repetitive strain injuries. Meat plant workers and employers in Georgia should be concerned about these trends, especially when there are plans to remove line speed regulations in the industry.

Among the most frequent injuries that meat plant workers incur are fractured fingers; amputated fingers, toes, hands and arms; head trauma; and second-degree burns. OSHA records reveal that in meat plants across America, at least 17 accidents occur every month that qualify as "severe". Severe accidents are any that involve amputations, hospitalization and/or the loss of an eye.

The data shows that amputations are especially numerous: an average of two every week. Workers have been recorded as getting their limbs caught in cubing machines, rollers, vertical band saws and horizontal grinders, among other machinery. Among repetitive motion injuries, carpal tunnel has been shown to be the most common. The USDA is currently piloting its New Swine Slaughter Inspection System as a way to improve the efficiency of inspections and save the industry money. One of its proposed rules is to allow employers to increase line speed.

This move is being criticized by those who fear that workplace safety will be compromised by it. The rule could also open up questions as to whether the employer can be blamed for negligence after an accident. Injured workers, though, can still be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. They might want to have an attorney's help throughout the process.

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