When consumers in South Carolina sit down to a meal of beef or pork, the labor that went into slaughtering and processing the meat is invisible to them. Currently, workplace regulations limit pork plants to processing 1,106 pigs per hour, but government regulators are thinking about removing the speed limit. A representative from the Food Integrity Campaign said that faster line speeds raise the dangers for workers. Substantial dangers already loom large over workers in the meat processing industry. These workers have a threefold chance of serious injuries compared to workers in other industries.
Repetitive strain injuries are particularly prevalent among beef and pork processors at a rate seven times above average. An anonymous worker who spoke to a news outlet said that management largely ignores complaints about repetitive motion injuries to hands. Managers instruct workers to ice their hands during breaks but not during time meant for production.
In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome, serious accidents that cause the loss of limbs occur at alarming rates. Records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration show that over a 31-month period between 2015 and 2017, meat workers suffered amputations an average of twice a week. Safety advocates suspect that the industry does not report all injuries.
Employers carry workers compensation insurance to pay for medical care, disability and lost pay suffered by victims of workplace accidents. Despite the presence of these benefits, an individual hurt on the job may encounter barriers when trying to access care. An employer might discourage accident reporting, or an insurer could limit a settlement unfairly or deny a claim. The representation of an attorney may help enable a person to pursue benefits after an accident. A lawsuit might result in compensation for workplace injuries. An attorney may also alert regulators to unsafe working conditions.