Those who work in the meatpacking industry have a dangerous job and are at risk of sustaining serious injuries or illnesses. The physical work alone requires repetitive movements, frequent lifting, and the need to move quickly. In addition, meatpacking workers must handle sharp knives, saws and grinders. There is very little automation involved.
One study found that the average meatpacking worker has 4.5 seconds to perform a task, and must perform the same task about 5,000 times within the same day.
As of May 31, 2020, there have been at least 20,000 COVID-19 infections of workers linked to the meatpacking industry, resulting in 73 deaths. This has occurred in 215 plants across 33 states, according to Investigate Midwest. No COVID-19 cases have been reported in meat packing plants in New York, however.
How have meatpacking plants failed their workers?
According to The Hill, meat packing plants had been given plenty of warning that pathogens would endanger workers, yet many of them did very little to prevent workplace outbreaks from occurring. Moreover, OSHA hasn't established infection control measures in these plants.
Prior to COVID-19, there was little awareness among the public about the processing and safety of food. The high rate of infection in meatpacking plants may be attributed to poor organization. Many other industries utilized safety measures to reduce worker risk. That has not been employed in many meatpacking plants, however.
OSHA's number of workplace safety inspectors has dropped to its lowest level in nearly half a century. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to speed up production lines in 11 poultry plants.
Moreover, workers are often crowded together, unable to practice any form of social distancing. The Hill suggested slowing down production and installing barriers between work stations in order to protect workers. While many companies have argued that social distancing will slow down production, failing to do so will result in a greater infection rate among workers and people in the community.
What are my legal options if I was infected with COVID-19 while on the job?
If you were infected with COVID-19 on the job, it could take several days for the first symptoms to appear. If you notice any coughing, shortness of breath, or a fever, notify your employer immediately and contact your doctor.
You may need to stay out of work for at least two weeks or until you test negative for the virus before you can return to work. Luckily, you may be eligible to collect workers' compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. To learn how, contact the New York workers' compensation attorneys at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP Attorneys At Law and schedule your remote legal consultation. Your consultation can be conducted through Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, phone, or text.