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). 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.
- Protect Your Health – Report Your Injuries and Illnesses. OSHA/USDA Workers’ Rights Poster (Publication 3969), (2019). Also available in Spanish.
- 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.