CALL (800) 863-5312 SPEAK WITH AN EXPERIENCED SANTA FE MEATPACKING INJURY ATTORNEY
Meat processing and packing plant employees must work around dangerous equipment and in a potentially hazardous environment every day. To keep up with the high demand for meat in the United States, employees must work long, physically demanding hours. Although meatpacking plants are regulated by the U.S. government, accidents still happen.
If you have been injured in a meatpacking plant, our personal injury attorneys may be able to help. We have the knowledge necessary to guide you through every step of your Santa Fe meatpacking lawsuit. Call (800) 863-5312 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys today.
HAZARDS IN MEATPACKING PLANTS
There are many different hazards that you may be exposed to in a meatpacking plant. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth a list of potential hazards and solutions that meatpacking and meat processing employees and employers should be aware of:
- Biological Agents. Biological agents include bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. Meatpacking plant workers are exposed to these agents during slaughter, when handling the meat, and with exposure to sick animals. Health effects may include serious infection, pneumonia, lung cancer, and more. Employees should always be provided with personal protective equipment to help combat biological agents.
- Hazardous Chemicals. Meatpacking plant workers are exposed to numerous different kinds of hazardous chemicals. Potential health effects from chemical exposure may include burns, rashes, and shortness of breath. Understanding the effects of different chemicals, as well as utilizing specific training programs, may help to prevent serious workplace injury.
- Machine Guarding. Heavy machinery has the potential to cause severe workplace injury, such as crushed fingers or amputations. Safeguards for those operating machinery are essential to prevent injury.
- Noise. Noise-related hearing loss is one of the most prevalent health concerns in United States workplaces. OSHA recommends a Sound Level Meter Application that can be downloaded on mobile devices to measure sound levels in the workplace.
One additional hazard in meat and poultry packing plants is the risk of the COVID-19 virus, a potentially deadly virus that has become a worldwide pandemic. The threat of exposure to this virus in meatpacking plants is described in detail, below.
COVID-19 EXPOSURE AMONG MEATPACKING WORKERS
SARS-CoV-2, which stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” causes the COVID-19 disease. COVID-19 has affected hundreds of millions of individuals across the world. Due to this pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has advised that critical infrastructure workers be permitted to continue to work, but only if the workers remain asymptomatic, have not had a positive test result for COVID-19, and only if additional precautions are implemented in the workplace to prevent exposure to the workers and the community. According to the CDC, the meatpacking industry is considered a component of the critical infrastructure within the Food and Agriculture Sector.
The CDC has stated that meat and poultry processing workers are not exposed to COVID-19 through the meat products they handle; however, their work environments may contribute substantially to potential exposure to the virus. Distinctive factors that affect meatpacking workers’ risk for exposure to COVID-19 include:
- Distance Between Workers. Meat and poultry processing workers frequently work in close proximity to one another on the processing lines.
- Duration of Contact. Along with proximity, meatpacking workers often have a prolonged closeness to their coworkers. For example, meatpacking workers may work between 10 and 12 hours per shift. The CDC warns that continued contact with potentially infectious individuals can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- Type of Contact. Meatpacking workers may be exposed to the virus through respiratory droplets in the air. This may occur when a worker sneezes or coughs. Further, exposure may also occur from contact with contaminated surfaces, tools, workstations, or other objects. Shared spaces, such as break rooms and locker rooms, may also contribute to the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
COVID-19 Infection Prevention Recommendations for Meatpacking Workers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a qualified workplace coordinator be identified who will be responsible for COVID-19 assessment and control planning. All factory workers should have the ability to contact the coordinator with any COVID-19 concerns. Further, facility management should establish ongoing communications with public health officials to make sure they are getting relevant and up-to-date information concerning COVID-19.
The CDC also recommends that facilities perform worksite assessments to identify COVID-19 risks. As part of these assessments, facilities should follow the “worker infection prevention recommendations” put forth by the CDC. These recommendations are based on an approach known as the “hierarchy of controls.” This approach groups actions by their effectiveness in reducing or removing workplace hazards. The hierarchy of controls is as follows:
- Eliminate a hazard or process
- Install engineering controls
- Implement appropriate cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection practices
- Install administrative controls.
Engineering controls include isolating workers from the hazard. To lower the risk of transmitting COVID-19, meatpacking workers should be spaced at least six feet apart, and should not be facing one another. If workers must perform tasks in tandem across from one another, physical barriers should be put in place. Physical barriers may include shop curtains, plexiglass, or other similar materials.
Meatpacking plants should also ensure there is adequate ventilation in all work areas to help minimize potential exposure to COVID-19. If mounted fans are used in the facility, management should take steps to minimize the flowing air from blowing from one worker to another.
Employers should also remove chairs and tables within break rooms to increase worker separation. Alternative areas should be used to accommodate the overflow volume of workers. For example, outdoor tents could be used on nice days for breaks and lunch areas.
Administrative controls are used to change the way people work. The first step is for employers to promote social distancing. This can be done in a number of ways. For example, employers can:
- Encourage single-file movement with a six-foot distance between each worker
- Designate workers to monitor and facilitate social distancing on the processing floor
- Stagger break times
- Stagger workers’ arrival and departure times
- Encourage employers to avoid carpooling to and from work.
Another step is for management to review leave policies and incentive programs. For example, employers may consider modifying sick leave policies to encourage sick employees from coming to work. Incentive programs should be modified so that sick employees are not penalized for taking time off if they have COVID-19.
Employers should also give employees enough time to wash their hands and should promote personal hygiene in the workplace. This may include:
- Providing alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Placing hand sanitizers in multiple locations
- Choosing hand sanitizing stations that are touch-free
- Providing touch-free trash receptacles
Employees should be educated to avoid touching their faces, including their eyes, noses, and mouths. This includes educating workers that cigarettes, as well as smokeless tobacco use, can lead to increased contact to the worker’s hands and mouth.
Meatpacking plants are considered to be a critical component of the infrastructure in the United States Food and Agriculture Sector. This means that the CDC permits the plants to stay open and continue operation so long as certain precautions are implemented in the workplace to prevent exposure to the workers and others.
If you are an employee in a meatpacking or meat processing plant, and you believe you have contracted COVID-19 due to the negligence of management in the workplace, call a Santa Fe meatpacking personal injury attorney today. Zinda Law Group attorneys may be able to get you the compensation you deserve for your medical costs, lost wages, and more.
SPEAK WITH ONE OF OUR EXPERIENCED MEATPACKING PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS
To meet the high demand for meat products in the United States, many meat processing and packing plants expect their employees to work long, difficult hours. Further, these factories contain dangerous equipment, chemicals, and other hazards, making meatpacking one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. One additional hazard in meatpacking and meat processing plants is the COVID-19 virus. There are many steps management can take to reduce the risk of exposing their employees to the potentially deadly virus. If you have been injured due to the negligence of your employers, malfunctioning equipment, unsafe working conditions, or more, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Zinda Law Group’s Santa Fe personal injury attorneys understand that after a workplace accident, you may be struggling with hefty medical costs. That is why we work on a contingency fee basis. We believe that you should be able to receive legal representation without upfront legal costs. That is why we are only paid if we are successful in winning your case.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a meatpacking plant accident, we may be able to help. Contact us today at (800) 863-5312 to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys regarding your Santa Fe meatpacking lawsuit. Consultations are always free to you. Further, you do not pay us a thing unless we win your case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
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