Sectoral working papers, 104

Safety and health of meat, poultry and fish processing workers

The main objective of this study is to explore and expose the safety and health issues of workers in these sectors and their implications for these industries. This should help employers, workers and the tripartite constituents to become more aware of these issues, which in turn should lead to their cooperative efforts in reducing the number of occupational accidents and diseases and improving productivity. Working papers are preliminary material circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comments.

The study on Occupational Safety and Health in the Food and Drink Industries was completed in 1993 at the request of the Food and Drink Industries Committee. Its findings showed that accidents and diseases in these occurred more frequently than in many other industries in the manufacturing sector in a number of countries where data were available. The study also indicated that common injuries in these industries included cut and stab wounds, lacerations, sprains and strains, bruises and fractures often caused by sharp hand tools, such as knives. Common diseases were hearing impairment, musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory disorders, skin diseases and infections transmitted by animals. These findings have drawn our attention particularly to the meat processing sector, which is closely associated with many of these findings.

This study begins by reviewing recent trends in economic activities and employment, as well as working conditions in the meat, poultry and fish processing industries. The workers in these industries are a focus in this study because they share some similar features. For example, they process animals, regardless of their size, largely with sharp and sometimes heavy hand tools. They also work in wet and cold areas that ensure that their products meet food hygiene standards. These factors tend to contribute to creating a work environment where certain safety and health problems are prone to emerge. Finally, this study discusses specific preventive measures that have reduced accidents and diseases in some workplaces. These measures are presented as examples of best practices, which others may adopt to make their work environments safer and healthier.