For many in California who enjoy a good steak on the grill or prefer the health qualities of chicken breast, the thought of how that meat gets to their plates is easy to dismiss. What many fail to realize is that the men and women working in meat and poultry packing plants suffer illness and injuries at a rate higher than most in other factory jobs.
If you work in one of many meat or poultry processing plants in the area, you understand the risks involved. You may also be like 30 percent of the workforce in meat and poultry plants who are immigrants to the United States. Because of your status in this country, you may be especially vulnerable, and you may fear that reporting an illness or injury will cost you your job.
Are you at risk?
The exact number of injuries in a meat packing plant is difficult to pin down. If you hurt yourself on the job, your supervisor may wrap your wound, give you an ice pack or offer you an aspirin but never report the accident. Additionally, those who report statistics for work-related accidents typically do not include those who work on maintenance crews, so their injuries are not tallied nationwide. These and other workers are considered contract workers and are denied many benefits of employment.
With this system, the meat and poultry industries can report that safety on the job is improving and injuries are on the decline. The fact is that animal processors continue to face grueling and dangerous conditions. You or workers you know may have suffered from any of the following or other issues:
- Injuries from rapid repetitive motions to meet your quota
- Musculoskeletal disorders due to prolonged standing on hard floors
- Physical and emotional injury when management denies regular bathroom breaks
- Illnesses caused by exposure to chemicals and pathogens
- Amputations and other traumatic cuts
- Crushing injuries from machines
If you are injured or become ill due to conditions in the workplace, your status as an immigrant, lawfully or unlawfully present, does not affect your eligibility for workers' compensation. In fact, because you are particularly vulnerable to injury due to the inherent hazards in your job, your access to workers' compensation benefits is of the highest importance.
You may be unsure if your employer is following the federal laws that protect you and others from workplace danger, so consulting with a workers' compensation attorney may benefit you.