The Law Office of Michael J. Joshi
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Learning about the hazards of meatpacking can prevent injuries

If you work in a meatpacking plant in Kansas, you might not realize that it is an industry known as hazardous for more than a century. Despite advancements in technology and improved safety regulations, you and your co-workers continue to face multiple health and safety risks. Thousands of workplace injuries occur among meatpackers every year, many of them have life-altering consequences, and some are even fatal.

Although federal and state safety authorities prescribe strict regulations and expect employers to protect the health and safety of employees, conditions remain hazardous. Reports of workplace injuries in the food processing industry nationwide continue to appear in the media. If you could become more aware of the typical hazards that threaten your safety, you might be better equipped to take precautions.

Take note of warning signs

Some of the most hazardous areas in meatpacking plants are conveyor systems, which involve hot surfaces, pressurized systems, exposed and moving machine parts, and other dangers. If your employer complies with safety regulations, you should see the following standardized warning signs:

  • Caution signs: They warn of dangers that could cause moderate or minor injuries.
  • Warning signs: These signs warn of serious hazards that could cause severe injury or death.
  • Danger signs: Similar to warning signs but instead of dangers that could cause death or severe bodily harm, these signs indicate that absent special precautions, it will likely have such consequences.

You could prevent injuries if you learn how to interpret the dangers these signs describe.

Machinery hazards

Although working with or around machinery poses many dangers, the following three cause most equipment-related injuries:

  • Excessive noise: Not only do loud noises cause hearing loss and tinnitus in the long-term, but they also prevent communication. When you and your co-workers cannot hear each other, instructions from supervisors or warnings about imminent dangers, loud noises could be deadly hazards.
  • Machine guarding: Safety regulations prescribe the need for guards to prevent contact with moving machine parts, the lack of which could lead to amputation injuries.
  • Lockout/tagout devices: These devices ensure that electrical equipment and machines are de-energized during cleaning and maintenance to prevent burn injuries and electrocutions.

Of these, the latter is one of the most frequently reported safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Ammonia threats

Anhydrous ammonia is a toxic chemical that threatens the safety of workers in most plants with refrigeration. This refrigerant poses the following risks:

  • Flammable: Ammonia can cause death at concentrations of approximately 15 to 28 percent by volume in air.
  • Corrosive: The refrigerant can damage your skin, lungs and eyes on contact or inhalation.
  • Explosive: Upon release in an enclosed space where an ignition source is present, anhydrous ammonia can explode.

Along with these hazards, you will also face those typical in other workplaces. These include slip-and-fall hazards, repetitive strain injuries and overexertion that could lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

Workers' compensation

Even with all the precautions, work-related accidents can happen at any time. If you are the victim of a work-related injury, you will likely be eligible for financial relief through the Kansas workers' compensation insurance system. The benefits claims process could be challenging, but experienced legal counsel can provide the necessary support and guidance.

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