CALL (800) 863-5312 TO SPEAK WITH A TEXAS MEATPACKING PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER FOR FREE
Hundreds of meatpacking workers suffer debilitating injuries every year. According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, meatpacking workers are three times more likely to suffer serious injuries than the average worker. Though the dangers of working as a meatpacking worker are evident, many injured workers are often given little financial assistance upon their injury.
If you or your loved one has been injured as a meatpacking worker, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our Texas meatpacking personal injury lawyers.
Dangers at a Meatpacking Plant
Meatpacking plants often deal with raw meat. Raw meat means blood and animal fat. These substances are littered all over the floor in many meatpacking plants. Because of the time crunch many workers face, the floors are not cleaned regularly. As the blood and animal fat accumulates, workers who are not attentive can slip easily as a result. Even when the floors are cleaned, the floor may remain wet for some period of time. Again, wet floors can slip and falls. It is generally inevitable meatpacking plants will have some floors that are wet and slippery. The nature of the job simply requires it. Unfortunately, many plants do not have safety precautions in place to avoid slip and falls.
Though the progress of technology has allowed many meatpacking workers to not have to deal with cutting meat directly, there are still many workers who must cut meat with a knife. However, repetitive knife cutting over several hours raises the risk of a dangerous accident. Workers have been known to blind themselves or disfigure themselves as a result of accidentally dropping their knives or throwing their knives. Some employees even accidentally cut other employees around them.
Some workers at meatpacking plants must carry or lug containers of meat that can weigh up to 300 pounds. Carrying or lugging heavy containers places immense stress on the back. Even if the damage does not occur immediately, over time, this can lead to serious injury.
In additional physical dangers, many meatpacking workers face chemical dangers as well. Many meatpacking workers are exposed to ammonia. Though not visible to the naked eye, ammonia does have an odor. It is generally used as a refrigerant and a cleaning compound. However useful it may be, direct contact with the mucous membranes, eyes, and skin can be extremely harmful. Not only can they cause burns and blisters, but they can also cause headaches and nausea. Unfortunately, many employees remain in the area even while suffering from the side effects of ammonia exposure. This can lead to serious medical complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Besides ammonia, meatpacking workers are sometimes exposed to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. When meat is ready to be frozen for packaging, for instance, it is often placed into vats where dry ice is stored. During this process, the carbon dioxide in these vats may escape and spread throughout the room. Though carbon dioxide can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sufficient amounts of carbon dioxide exposure can cause death. Workers can be exposed to carbon monoxide as well when the ventilation at a plant is not properly working. The symptoms are very similar to exposure to carbon dioxide.
Some meatpacking workers are exposed to the thermal degradation products of PVC or polyvinyl chloride, i.e., the food-wrap used for meat packages. Though it is not harmful when it is at normal temperature, it can be harmful when it is heated. When a worker is exposed to heated PVC, he or she may feel irritation in their eyes, nose, and throat. In severe cases, exposure may lead to difficulty in breathing.
Cumulative Trauma Disorder
Though not exclusive to meatpacking workers, cumulative trauma disorder among meatpacking workers is too prevalent to ignore. Cumulative trauma disorders are those medical issues that are caused by repetitive movement. For instance, meatpacking workers often make motions that involve gripping, squeezing, and twisting motions. Constant repetitions of these motions can cause nerve damage that may lead to permanent numbness and weakness.
In addition to the above hazards, COVID-19 has added an additional threat to meatpacking workers. Though meatpacking workers cannot be exposed to COVID-19 by simply touching the meat products they handle, the environment that meatpacking workers are placed in is conducive to the spread of COVID-19. Because meatpacking plants are essentially processing lines in which employees are forced to stay in close contact, one person can easily transmit an airborne virus to another. It is not only the distance that makes viruses easily transmittable, but also the length of contact that coworkers have with one another. For instance, meatpacking workers sometimes have shifts of ten to twelve hours. Being in contact with others for that long exponentially increases the likelihood of transmission.
Additionally, though the meats themselves may not have the virus, whenever a meatpacking worker is infected with COVID-19 sneezes, the virus may land on surfaces that other employees frequently touch. For instance, workstations, tools, and breakroom tables can all be
How to Be Safe While Working at a Meatpacking Plant
1. Get Plenty of Sleep
Though probably not the most obvious, sleep is essential to our performance at our job. A lack of sleep reduces our reaction times and cognitive processes. Just like when a driver who is under the influence cannot avoid a car fast enough in time to avoid an accident, an employee who is suffering from sleep deprivation cannot do certain actions as responsive as he or she could if he or she had a restive sleep.
2. Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when you are at work. This means gloves, masks, and hazard suits. Wearing your PPE will lower your exposure to chemicals and viruses that may be present in your working environment.
3. Make Use of Guardrails
Never be in a rush to get somewhere when you know the floor is slippery or wet. Most plants will have guardrails to prevent accidental falls. You should hold onto guardrails in areas where you know the floor is wet or slippery.
What to Do After an Injury at a Meatpacking Plant
1. Stop Working Immediately
Once you get injured, your priority should not be whether you can finish your shift or not. Your employer will unlikely be more sympathetic because you decided to work through your injury. In fact, if you decide to file a lawsuit, the defendant may argue that you were not truly injured because you decided to work through your injury. Therefore, stop working immediately after you get injured on the job.
2. Get Medical Attention
Even after a minor slip and fall, you may wish to get medical attention. You never know if a light injury can lead to something more significant. Furthermore, getting treatment at a medical facility will allow a doctor to record your injuries. This may come in helpful if you decide to file a lawsuit or insurance claim.
3. Report Your Injury to Your Employer
If your company has workers’ compensation, Texas has a policy in which that an injured worker has 30 days to report the injury to his or her supervisor. If the worker fails to do so, he or she may be denied benefits. If you developed an illness rather than a physical injury, you have 30 days from the day you discovered or should have discovered the illness to report to your supervisor.
Do not forgo reporting as you may lose your opportunity to lose compensation as a result.
4. Gather Evidence and Witness Information
After an accident of any kind, documentation is important. It is better to be too prepared than to not be prepared at all. Therefore, if you are able, take pictures of the accident location. If there were witnesses at the location of the accident, be sure to collect their contact information as they may be useful to your case if you decide to file a lawsuit.
5. Speak with an Attorney
Even if your company may have workers’ compensation in place, you might want to speak to an attorney if workers’ compensation is insufficient to cover your injuries or if it is denied.
CONTACT A TEXAS MEATPACKING PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
The experienced Texas attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you with your meatpacking personal injury claim. After an accident, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.