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Tyson Foods is one of the United States’ largest meat processing companies. It supplies various meat products such as chicken, beef, and pork to supermarkets and fast food restaurants all across the nation. Having tens of thousands of workers and possessing a large share of the meat processing market, Tyson Foods is no doubt a successful corporation. However, it is not without its controversies. Its dealings with injured employees have raised controversies about its management practices.
If you or your loved one has been injured at a Tyson plant, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our meatpacking personal injury lawyers.
Tyson Workers’ Compensation
Paying out workers’ compensation claims is an expensive endeavor. Over the past few decades, Tyson Foods has lobbied local and federal government to lower its liability to its injured workers. One way Tyson Foods has done this is by increasing the hoops an employee has to jump through to file a claim. This can mean that an employee has to fill out more paperwork or provide more documentation in order to have a successful claim. Some employees must go to an administrative hearing, which is not unlike a court hearing where parties must argue for their case. Such barriers discourage employees from starting a workers’ compensation claim in the first place.
In the current COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson Foods has been known to deny compensation to those who were infected with the virus at its factories. Because workers’ compensation was meant to compensate for factory injuries, employees with COVID-19, an airborne illness, have had difficulty filing for workers’ compensation.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Prior to workers’ compensation laws, an employee had to sue his or her employer in order to get compensation. Because employers were often much better financed than their employees, employees had very little chance of winning against their employees. Even if employees had a strong case for compensation, employers would often deny payment through various legal loopholes. One way was through the contributory negligence doctrine, which states that an employer is not liable for the injuries of an employee if the employee had some fault in causing his or her injuries. Another doctrine was the fellow-servant defense, which reduced an employer’s liability if it could be shown that another employee had some role in causing the injury of the injured employee. There was also the assumption of risk doctrine, which essentially stated that if an employee decided to work at a hazardous job environment, he or she had no recourse since he or she should have known that an injury was likely to occur.
Due to the power disparity between employers and employees, the workers’ compensation system was developed to reconcile the two groups. The workers’ compensation system theoretically works as a mutual agreement between employers and employees. Employers promise to compensate employees for their injuries in exchange for employees’ ability to file a lawsuit against them. However, workers’ compensation does not always provide satisfactory compensation to the workers who receive it.
What Compensation Does Workers’ Compensation Provide?
Workers’ compensation compensates an injured employee for his or her medical bills and lost wages. Employees may also receive compensation for their rehabilitation. Whether one may receive workers compensation depends on his or her source of injury. The injury must be related to work. An injury does not necessarily have to be a physical one. It may also be an illness related to work. For instance, if you were exposed to chemicals that cause cancer, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Common Meatpacking Injures
Meatpacking workers at a Tyson plant do not have an easy job. Constant vigilance is needed as they work with machines that slice and dice. In fact, according to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, meatpacking employees three times more likely to receive major injures than the average employee. Common injuries meatpacking employees have been known to suffer include:
- Back injuries
- Toxic substances
- Cumulative trauma disorder
Here's more information about common meatpacking employee injuries:
Meatpacking plants often have floors that are littered with all sorts of substances. In many cases, because of the nature of the work, animal fat and blood remain on the floor for several hours before being cleaned. As a result, the blood and animal fat accumulate, creating a safety hazard for those who walk across the floor. Even if the blood and animal fat are removed from the floor by thorough cleaning, the floor may still be wet from the water and other chemicals used to clean it.
Because of technological progress, meatpacking employees no longer have to directly cut meat as much as they used to. However, there are still meatpacking employees who still need to cut meat with a knife. Unfortunately, cutting meat for hours at a time raises the risk of accidentally cutting oneself. There have been many incidents where an employee blinded himself or herself by accidently flinging the knife to his or her face or where an employee accidently cuts his or her fingers.
One of the most difficult jobs at a meatpacking factor is carrying the containers of meat from one destination to another. Unfortunately, these containers are heavy. Carrying heavy containers can cause damage to the back over time.
Meatpacking employees face chemical dangers in addition to physical dangers. One of the most prevalent chemicals used in meatpacking factories is ammonia. Ammonia is used often to refrigerate meat and to clean the factory. Though quite useful, it can be very dangerous if it makes contact with the body. For instance, it can cause burns and blisters if it touches the skin. It may also cause headaches and nausea if it is breathed in for some period of time. Extremely long exposure to ammonia can cause bronchitis or even pneumonia.
Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are also present in meatpacking factories. These chemical compounds exist in the vats where dry ice is stored. When meat is prepared for the freezing process, carbon dioxide may possibly escape the vats. Exposure to carbon dioxide without proper ventilation can cause death if the compound accumulates to a significant degree. Carbon monoxide is the more dangerous of the two compounds as it actually blocks your hemoglobin, the molecule that circulates oxygen in your body, from binding to oxygen molecules.
The thermal degradation of PVC or polyvinyl chloride presents problems for some meatpacking employees as well. Though we use PVC all the time in our food wraps, it can be harmful when heated. Workers exposed to heated PVC may feel irritation in their eyes, nose, and throat. Heavy exposure can lead to difficulty in breathing.
Cumulative Trauma Disorder
One of the most common health issues meatpacking employees face is cumulative trauma disorder. Cumulative trauma disorder generally occurs because an employee does repetitive movements for several hours a day. Because meatpacking employees often do repeated gripping and twisting motions, cumulative trauma disorder can develop. The most common is carpal tunnel syndrome. Initially, carpal tunnel syndrome may only be a mild discomfort. However, ignoring the symptoms and not properly treating carpal tunnel syndrome may lead to permanent numbness and weakness.
Though the meatpacking factory is fraught with dangers, COVID-19 has added an additional threat to meatpacking workers. Just last year, a Tyson Foods plant in Texas faced a major COVID outbreak that infected thousands and killed more than a dozen employees. Meatpacking employees are not exposed to COVID-19 because of the meat they handle but due to their working environment. Though personal protective equipment and social distancing can reduce the transmission of COVID, many meatpacking factories disregard such safety measures.
In fact, many employees in meatpacking plants stand shoulder to shoulder. This type of arrangement makes it easy for the virus to move from one person to another. Furthermore, meatpacking employees stand next to each other for a long period of time. Though the virus is less likely to travel between people who may just walk past one another for a brief moment, the likelihood that the virus travels from one person to another increases significantly when the two people have constant exposure to each other.
However, the virus does not necessarily have to travel from person to person; it may also travel from a surface. When an employee with COVID-19 sneezes near an object, the object may then have the virus on it. Therefore, employees should be wary of touching objects in a common space area.
CONTACT A MEATPACKING PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
The experienced 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.
Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.