- 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.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.