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Proposed changes to hog slaughter lines may endanger workers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) has proposed removing the speed limits on hog slaughtering in meatpacking plants. Currently, plants are limited to slaughtering 1,106 pigs an hour to allow government inspectors time to examine each pig. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) fears removing limits will put workers at a greater risk for injury.

USDA claims removing limits reduces injuries

According to the USDA, a comparison of pilot programs to traditional plants showed plants without time limits had lower injury rates. However, NELP questioned these findings and filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the USDA’s data.

NELP found the USDA’s data lacking

The researchers that examined the USDA’s data sample found it too small, not at all random and incomplete. The USDA compared five pilot slaughterhouse programs with 24 traditional hog plants. The numbers compared were not from consecutive years for many of the plants. For the nine-year period being examined, none of the plants had data for all nine years.

NELP also claimed the agency is trying to hide bad data

Debbie Berkowitz, a program director at NELP, called the data analysis faulty. She also claimed the USDA was trying to hide the bad data from the public. Further, Berkowitz asserted the agency’s Freedom of Information Act request was submitted in March, but the response did not arrive for five months. NELP received the data after the USDA’s comment period on the proposed law change closed.

Serious injuries much more common in meatpacking

Serious worker injuries are already more than three times higher in meatpacking than other industries. NELP believes removing the speed limits on hog slaughtering would impact worker safety, food safety and animal welfare.

Some common meatpacking plant injuries include:

  • Repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel
  • Lacerations from tools used by workers and coworkers
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Amputations
  • Tendon injuries
  • Fatigue related injuries
  • Neuropathy

An injured Wisconsin worker may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you are unsure how to file a claim or think your benefits were underpaid, consider contacting an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation claims. An attorney can help you get what you need to recover.

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