Meat and poultry workers in Minnesota and around the country have much higher risks of on-the-job injuries or fatalities than do other manufacturing industry workers. Even though an updated report from the Government Accountability Office indicates meat and poultry work is safer than it was in 2005, there are flaws in the statistical data that the Department of Labor gathers.

The GAO reported that 151 meat and poultry workers across the country died from work-related injuries between the years of 2004 and 2013. It also indicated that the Department of Labor’s statistics are flawed for several reasons. Many workers suffer catastrophic injuries, including amputations and fatalities, while cleaning plant machinery. Because these workers are often employed by third-party contractors, they are not counted by the Department of Labor for its data regarding the meat and poultry industries.

The GAO also reported that on-site medical staff often tell workers to head back to the line, discouraging them from seeking medical care when the workers experience injuries and pain. Many of the workers in these plants are also refugees or immigrants who tend to minimize or downplay their injuries for fear of losing their jobs.

The GAO’s report demonstrates that the Department of Labor needs to adjust how it collects and analyzes the data regarding workplace injuries in meat and poultry plants. No matter who is responsible for causing an accident at work, workers who are injured may the right to seek benefits through their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance carriers. Injured workers may want to consult with attorneys to learn about the claims filing process.