People in South Carolina who work in the meat and poultry industry may face a number of safety hazards in the workplace, and deaths and injuries may be underreported. The Government Accountability Office criticized safety standards in the industry in 2005 and in an updated report has said that injuries and deaths are still too common. Between 2004 and 2013, 151 workers in the industry died from work-related injuries.
Reported numbers likely do not match actual incidents of injuries, and the GAO identified a number of reasons. One is that the workers who clean the machines may lose fingers and limbs, but since they often work for third-party contractors, they may not be counted as being in the meat and poultry industry. At workplace clinics, workers are often sent back to the line when they should not be. One worker was not referred to a physician until visiting a nursing station 90 times. Workers who are refugees or immigrants may suffer from the language barrier and worry about keeping their jobs. According to the GAO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should focus more on safety standards for sanitation workers and include them in their figures.
Workers’ advocates have long criticized conditions in the industry. Inadequate bathroom breaks and line speeds that cause repetitive motion injuries are among those complaints.
A worker who is injured on the job in such an industry may face a number of obstacles to treatment and compensation. An attorney might be able to advocate for an injured worker with actions such as assisting with workers’ compensation paperwork or working on an appeal if the claim is disputed or denied.