- Safety and Health Topics
There are many serious safety and health hazards in the meat packing industry. These hazards include exposure to high noise levels, dangerous equipment, slippery floors, musculoskeletal disorders, and hazardous chemicals (including ammonia that is used as a refrigerant). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports injury and illness rates for the Meat Packing Industry as 2 ½ times higher than the national average. More serious injuries requiring work restrictions or days away from work are more than 3 times higher in meat packing than U.S. Industries as a whole. Musculoskeletal disorders comprise a large part of these serious injuries and continue to be common among meat packing workers. In addition, meat packing workers can be exposed to biological hazards associated with handling live animals or exposures to feces and blood which can increase their risk for many diseases.
Common hazard control measures include:
- implementing an effective ergonomics program (also see OSHA's Ergonomics page),
- implementing an effective hearing conservation program,
- implementing design and maintenance of electrical systems and an effective lockout/tagout program to prevent injury from accidental start-up of machinery during maintenance activities,
- providing required personal protective equipment (PPE),
- guarding dangerous equipment,
- following OSHA's process safety management standard to protect workers from accidental leaks of ammonia,
- incorporating engineering controls, such as improving sanitation and ventilation measures, to protect workers from chemical and biological hazards
- maintaining walking/working surfaces to prevent slips, trips and falls,
- implementing OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard requirements and ensuring workers are not exposed to unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals,
- following OSHA standards that require that exit doors are not blocked and not locked while employees are in the building. Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools or special knowledge.
Employers must also comply with OSHA’s sanitation standard 29 CFR 1910.141, that requires that toilet facilities must be made readily available and that employees are able to use toilet facilities when needed.
Meatpacking is addressed in specific OSHA standards for General Industry.
Hazards and Solutions
Provides references that may aid in recognizing and controlling hazards associated with meatpacking.
Provides links and references to additional resources related to meatpacking.
- Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing (EPUB | MOBI). OSHA Publication 3213, (2013). Also available in Spanish (EPUB | MOBI).
- Ergonomics Program Management Guidelines For Meatpacking Plants. OSHA Publication 3123, (1993).
- Protecting Temporary Workers
- Ammonia Refrigeration. OSHA eTool. Assists employers and employees in identifying and controlling the hazards associated with the operation and maintenance of ammonia refrigeration systems.
- Lockout-Tagout Interactive Training Program. OSHA eTool.
- Machine Guarding. OSHA eTool.
- Hazard Identification. OSHA Expert Advisor.
- LOTO Plus. OSHA Expert Advisor.
Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.