They only come out at night: the sanitation crews at slaughterhouses. They descend on the factory floors with a “nightly storm of high-pressure hoses, chemical vapors, blood, grease, and frantic deadlines, all swirling in clouds of steam around pulsing belts, blades, and blenders,” Bloomberg reports.
The nightmare setting gets worse for the workers paid low wages to clean up pools of blood and mounds of animal tissue: they suffer severe injuries (amputation, hospitalization or loss of an eye) at an alarming rate. One of the companies described in the article had a severe injury rate of 14 per 10,000 workers. Its amputation rate (9.4 per 10,000 workers) is nearly five times higher than the average for manufacturing workers.
“Sanitation workers face some of the harshest and most dangerous conditions in American industry,” said a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project and a former OSHA chief of staff. Because the workers are hidden away on graveyard shifts and are often undocumented immigrants and contractors, their injuries and illnesses can fall between the cracks in government data — and worse, in workers’ compensation claims.
Many low-wage workers fear termination or retaliation if they are injured and file for North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits. For them, it often makes more sense to keep quiet and keep their jobs.
It should be noted that it is illegal for employers to fire, demote or withhold pay from workers because of an on-the-job injury.
A skilled workers’ comp attorney can help you fight for full benefits and protect your job, family and future.