The meat packing industry is a fast-paced work environment with hazards such as cutting implements, moving machinery, physical and repetitive labor, and slippery surfaces.
Overhead rail systems move animal carcasses through the meatpacking plant. Workers can even be stationed on moving platforms that reduce the numbers of steps that they take. However, the speed and efficiency in these movements can lead to repetitive tasks and injuries. Take frequent work breaks to reduce fatigue. Rotate your tasks when you can. Position yourself as close to your work as possible to prevent overreaching and strains. Use lifting devices to help move heavy objects. Use proper lifting techniques by keeping your back straight and using your legs to power the move.
Remain aware of moving carcasses and machinery in the work area so that you don’t get hit or caught up in moving rails or conveyors. Consider hard hats if there is a hazard of getting hit or heavy carcasses or parts dropping on your head. Guard moving machinery such as conveyors, augers, grinders, saws, and other cutting blades. Practice lockout/tagout whenever you maintain, repair, or clear jams on these machines.
Hand held knives along with power knives and saws are used to split carcasses, remove hides and excess body parts, as well as to cut meat into usable portions for wholesale and retail customers. For hand knife use, use a handle that fits your grip and is angled to reduce the bend of your wrist. Knife blades should be sharp to prevent slippage. Specialty butcher gloves that are cut resistant and/or steel mesh are recommended to prevent cuts. For power knives and saws, consider anti-vibration gloves that will allow you to grip the handle securely, but will help disburse the impacts of the vibration. Gauntlets and aprons can also prevent cuts to the arms and body.
Slips, trips, and falls are common in meatpacking plants because of the loss of bodily fluids from the carcasses and the amount of water used to process meats and to clean and sanitize plant machinery. Wear water-resistant boots with a slip-resistant sole and a reinforced toe to protect your feet. Keep up on housekeeping to remove fluids and other debris continuously. Use proper signage for wet floor areas, whether they are temporarily or continuously wet. Use non-slip floor coatings, rubber grates, and mats to provide safe walking surfaces through wet areas.
The meatpacking plant can have a range of extreme temperatures from cold processing areas and refrigeration units to scalding water for cooking and sanitation. Wear layers to protect you from temperature extremes. The noise of moving machinery, cutting blades, and water spray may require hearing protection in some work areas. Make sure there is good lighting to see your job tasks and any moving equipment or meat parts. Good ventilation can prevent exposure to animal bacterium that can cause disease.
All employees need safety training, depending on their job tasks. Get training in overall plant safety. Take specific training needed to do your job tasks, work with your assigned tools and equipment, and use chemicals properly. Turnover rates in the meatpacking industry can be quite high. New employees are more likely to be injured on the job and need extra training and supervision while they learn their job tasks and hazards.
Pack your plant with safety and quality, proper procedures, protective equipment, and training help you get the job done right.