Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Slaughterhouse cleaners on graveyard shifts, many of them immigrants, are in a dangerous job with little oversight

Injury rates for workers in meatpacking plants are at an all-time low, according to the North American Meat Institute. But those numbers may be misleading, because plants commonly hire contractors to do the often-dangerous work of cleaning the plants at night, and they aren't required to report numbers on contractor injuries, Peter Waldman and Kartikay Mehrotra report for Bloomberg.

Meatpacking plants have a hard time filling even daytime production jobs; finding workers for the graveyard sanitation shift is even harder, which is why the larger plants often hire third parties to clean. These companies, like Packers Sanitation Services Inc., are cost-effective for the plants because they pay their mostly immigrant workforce a third less than what day shift meatpackers earn.

"Such is the genius of American outsourcing. In an era of heightened concern about food safety, meat and poultry producers are happy to pay sanitation companies for their expertise. The sanitation companies also assume the headaches and risk of staffing positions that only the destitute or desperate will take—very often undocumented immigrants," Bloomberg reports. "And they relieve the big producers, including household names such as Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., of responsibility for one of the most dangerous factory jobs in America."

The immigrant workers, many undocumented, are pressured to complete work quickly, and accidents happen. But the immigrant workers rarely receive legal compensation after being injured.

"Judging from Packers’s record, the nightly storm of high-­pressure hoses, chemical vapors, blood, grease, and frantic deadlines, all swirling in clouds of steam around pulsing belts, blades, and blenders, can be treacherous. From 2015 through September 2016, Packers had the 14th-highest number of severe injuries—defined as an amputation, hospitalization, or the loss of an eye—among the 14,000 companies tracked by OSHA in 29 states, according to data analyzed by the National Employment Law Project," Bloomberg reports. Packers had the most injuries per worker by a wide margin, "with a rate of 14 severe injuries for every 10,000 workers. Its amputation rate of 9.4 dismemberments per 10,000 workers was almost five times higher than for U.S. manufacturing workers as a whole in 2015."

No comments: