Work injury: Chemical hazards in the meat packing industry

| Sep 17, 2018 | Workplace Injuries

Based on information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the meat packing industry is exceptionally dangerous, with an injury rate that far exceeds all other sectors nationwide. In Arizona, these workers are exposed to knife cuts, falls, musculoskeletal disorders, cumulative trauma disorders, infectious diseases and toxic substances. The latter is often not given the necessary attention, and many workers are unaware of the work injury dangers posed by chemicals, one of which is known as the silent killer.

Ammonia is used as an aqueous solution for cleaning and as anhydrous ammonia gas in refrigeration pipes. Contact with the skin can cause corrosive burns, and inhalation can damage the respiratory tract and the lungs; the gas can also injure eyes. Thermal degradation products can affect workers’ noses, eyes and throats. This hazardous product is produced during the process of heat-sealing polyvinyl chloride film for wrapping meat.

Carbon monoxide and dioxide are two potentially deadly chemical substances. Carbon dioxide is present in dry ice, which is typically stored in vats. The gas that escapes when the containers are opened to store meat that is ready to be frozen can quickly spread through a room. Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, is undetectable and often combined with other gases in improperly ventilated smokehouses. Overexposure to these toxic substances can cause death.

Workers in the meat packing industry in Arizona are likely to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer any type of work injury. However, it might be challenging to prove that something like a respiratory illness is work-related. Fortunately, injured workers are free to retain the services of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help with the navigation of the claims process to obtain coverage of medical expenses and lost wages.