Injuries to workers in meat-products manufacturing

Although meat-products manufacturing is one of the highest-hazard industries in Minnesota, increasing attention to workplace safety is dramatically reducing the number and incidence of injuries in this important Minnesota industry. Meat-products manufacturing in Minnesota employs approximately 18,000 workers – three times the employment of mining, almost twice that of heavy construction and about the same as medical instruments. This industry, which includes meat-packing plants, poultry slaughtering and processing facilities, and plants making sausages and other prepared meat products, is a major employer in southern and western Minnesota. Because work in this industry often involves assembly-line production with wet surfaces and sharp objects, meat-products manufacturing is a high-hazard industry: • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, this industry’s injury and illness incidence rate in 1998 was 25.3 cases per 100 full-time employees, more than triple the statewide rate of 7.7 cases. Meat-products manufacturing has the second-highest injury and illness incidence rate of any industry group, next to motor-vehicle manufacturing, according to BLS statistics. Although meat-products manufacturing accounted for only 0.7 percent of private industry employment, it accounted for 3 percent of all recordable workplace injuries and illnesses in 1998, also according to the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Approximately 2.3 workers per 100 full-time employees in this industry (for a total of more than 300 claims) filed workers’ compensation claims in 1998 for injuries resulting in more than three calendar-days of disability – the same rate as newspaper printing and publishing and less than half the rate of residential construction (5.5 workers per 100 full-time employees).

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Thanks in part to Minnesota OSHA’s continued inspection emphasis on this industry, meat-products manufacturing has become safer during the past decade: • The number of indemnity claims reported to the Department of Labor and Industry for this industry has decreased from 791 claims in 1990 to 372 claims in 1999, a 53 percent drop. This decrease occurred even as employment in meat-products manufacturing increased 34 percent (from 12,700 in 1990 to 17,000 in 1999). The 1998 indemnity claims rate per 100 full-time employees was 2.3, only 35 percent higher than the statewide rate of 1.7 claims. This compares to 1990, when the indemnity claims rate of 7.2 claims was 148 percent higher than the statewide rate.

Safety Lines


Spring 2001

The BLS survey total claims rate has decreased 34 percent from a three-year average of 39.5 cases per 100 full-time employees during 1991-93 to 26.2 cases during 1996-98, a drop. The rate for cases with days away from work also decreased by 55 percent, from 5.5 cases during 1991-93 to 2.5 cases during 1996-98.

The characteristics of the 1999 injuries did not differ markedly from the injuries of earlier years. The most frequently injured body parts were: • arm and hands (43 percent); • back (19 percent); and • legs and feet (17 percent). The most frequent types of injury in 1999 were: • sprain or strain (40 percent); • cuts (21 percent); and • cumulative trauma injuries, not coded as a sprain or strain (9 percent). The most common causes of injury were: • strain or other type of bodily movement, such as reaching, lifting, stretching, pulling and using a tool (35 percent); • falls (14 percent); and • cuts (13 percent). – Brian Zaidman Senior Reseach Analyst
Number of paid indemnity claims in the meat-products manufacturing industry


821 791

750 Number of paid indemnity claims





485 402 385 340 338 372



0 1990










Year of injury

Safety Lines


Spring 2001