Meat industry

Ways you can improve health and safety in your workplace and reduce the number of work-related injuries.

The meat industry employs around 30,000 workers, who have the highest rate of injuries across the whole manufacturing sector. Workers get injured doing manual handling, using machinery, tools, hot water and workplace vehicles. Occupational diseases, eg noise induced hearing loss, infections, and skin conditions are common.

The affects of injuries in the meat industry

The New Zealand meat industry has a history of high injury rates, for example from July 2011 to June 2012 injury claims in the meat industry cost us $16m – this amounted to on average $2,200 for each entitlement claim made by a meat worker.

Although meat industry injury rates have decreased in recent years many workers still get injured, and what we’re finding is:

  • families have to cope on reduced income, particularly when the injured worker is the main bread-winner. There can also be practical challenges such as needing to find transport to and from doctors, and fewer people able to take children to school or activities
  • employers lose production when skilled workers are injured – meat workers take longer to return to work after an injury – more than workers in the rest of the manufacturing sector – often because their injuries are serious and/or complex
  • meat workers, once injured, are more likely to have another injury than workers in other industry sectors.

The most common kinds of injuries are:

  • soft tissue injuries, eg bruises, sprains or strains – often because of manual handling tasks going wrong, slips, trips or falls
  • lacerations (cuts) or puncture wounds – these can happen because of poor technique or distraction, or when workers don’t wear the correct personal protective equipment while using knives – or band saws – the use of which can result in amputation
  • gradual onset injury – these are injuries that occur over time and are often linked to tasks that use lots of force, over long time, eg pelt stripping.

The most commonly injured body parts are:

  • shoulders
  • hand and wrist
  • back and spine.

How you can reduce injuries

Here are the top three things you can do to improve health and safety at your workplace:

  1. Set up a strong workplace health and safety system
    The Health and Safety Improvement Cycle can help you set up a health and safety system in your workplace, which can reduce injuries, illness and incidents. As part of this you need to identify all the hazards in your workplace.

    Once you’ve got all the hazards, work with your staff to develop and put in place strong controls for each one. Make sure that everyone understands the controls and knows how to use them. The Health and Safety Improvement Cycle can help you do this too.
  2. Investigate all injuries
    Use the Incident Investigation Process to help identify factors that contribute to injuries in your workplace, and then find the right ways to prevent them.
  3. Find out if the ACC Accredited Employers Programme is right for your company
    More than 20 meat companies already belong to the ACC Accredited Employers Programme, and they employ more than 90% of meat industry workers.

    The ACC Accredited Employers Programme can allow employers to take up to 90% off their ACC levies if they take responsibility for their employees’ work injury claims. It’s generally most suitable for large employers whose levies exceed $250,000 per year.

Resources and research

  • The Meat Industry Health and Safety Guidelines (external link) have been developed as a health and safety resource for people working in the meat industry in New Zealand. They are easy to follow and refer to, and address, many of the challenges in the meat industry today.
  • Download the:

Related websites

Use these external links to find more information:

New Zealand

International Links

Reviewed: 23 June 2014