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U.S. meatpacking workers suffering high rates of injury

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Almost 15 years ago, the Human Rights Watch organization began documenting and investigating the abuse of the rights of workers in the United States meat and poultry industries. What they found was disturbing, to say the least. These workers present some of the highest rates in the country of workplace injury and illness.

Between 2013 and 2017, an average of eight workers in these industries died per year due to an on-the-job injury. On average, a worker was hospitalized or lost a body part every other day between 2015 and 2018. Many others suffered debilitating injuries in the form of crushing, slicing, amputation or burning from working with dangerous machinery and moving parts. More have been forced to deal with severe respiratory illnesses, infections or arthritic conditions due to repetitious movement, as well as mental health issues from being pushed to perform past normal human limits.

To date, the federal government has failed to implement proper safety oversight and procedures for the industry. In fact, safety standards have again been lowered in recent years. Current workers in the meatpacking industry find themselves trying to manage life around chronic pain and illness from years of work in this unregulated industry. Human Rights Watch interviewed workers from at least 15 different plants across multiple states, including Alabama, Nebraska, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Workers who are forced to work under inhumane conditions and suffer injuries because of it may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These workers should know their legal rights in these types of situations.