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 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:
- hand and wrist
- back and spine.
Here are the top three things you can do to improve health and safety at your workplace:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- ACC4823 Reducing strains and sprains in the meat industry (PDF 434K), it can help you understand how and where strains and sprains might happen, and also gives ways to reduce the risk of them happening
- Industry Interventions for Addressing Musculoskeletal Disorders (Strains/Sprains) in New Zealand Meat Processing (PDF 989K) – Centre for Human Factors and Ergonomics, May 2007 – it describes how to deal with strains and sprains in the meat processing industry
- Musculoskeletal disorders in meat processing: a review of the literature for the New Zealand meat processing industry (PDF 884K) – Centre for Human Factors and Ergonomics, Dec 2006 – this literature review looks at the risks and causes of musculoskeletal disorders in the meat processing industry.
Use these external links to find more information:
- AsureQuality – food safety and biosecurity services providers
- Meat Industry Association of New Zealand
- Meat standards (New Zealand Food Safety Authority)
- Ministry for Primary Industries
- New Zealand Industry Training Organisation
- NZ Meat Workers and Related Trades Union
- WorkSafe New Zealand
- EOSHA Ergonomics Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants (Ergoweb, US)
- Health and safety guidance notes for the meat processing industry (British Meat Processors Association, UK)
- Meat and Livestock Australia
- Meat packing industry (US Department of Labor OSH Administration)
- Safety and health of meat, poultry and fish processing workers (International Labour Office, Geneva)
- Victorian WorkCover Authority – red meat processing (Australia)
Reviewed: 23 June 2014