A man fell into a meat blender at an Oregon meat distributing plant earlier this week. As strange and horrible as this type of accident sounds, it happens often enough.
Want to know more about gruesome slaughterhouse accidents? Several muckraking journalists have done their homework.
The following is a list of accident reports filed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), taken from a 2001 Mother Jones article. It reads like the twisted narrative of a man named Employee.
Employee Severely Burned After Fuel From His Saw Is Ignited.
Employee Hospitalized for Neck Laceration From Flying Blade.
Employee’s Finger Amputated in Sausage Extruder.
Employee’s Finger Amputated in Chitlin Machine.
Employee’s Eye Injured When Struck by Hanging Hook.
Employee’s Arm Amputated in Meat Auger.
Employee’s Arm Amputated When Caught in Meat Tenderizer.
Employee Burned in Tallow Fire.
Employee Burned by Hot Solution in Tank.
One Employee Killed, Eight Injured by Ammonia Spill.
Employee Killed When Arm Caught in Meat Grinder.
Employee Decapitated by Chain of Hide Puller Machine.
Employee Killed When Head Crushed by Conveyor.
Employee Killed When Head Crushed in Hide Fleshing Machine.
Employee Killed by Stun Gun.
Employee Caught and Killed by Gut-Cooker Machine.
Other Great Reads: How to deal with grief after an accidental death
The article goes on to reveal some startling slaughterhouse facts:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking is the nation’s most dangerous occupation. In 1999, more than one-quarter of America’s nearly 150,000 meatpacking workers suffered a job-related injury or illness.
The most dangerous plants are the ones where cattle are slaughtered. Poultry slaughterhouses are somewhat safer because they are more highly mechanized…most of the work at a modern beef plant is still performed by hand.
Starting in the early 1960s, a company called Iowa Beef Packers (IBP) began to revolutionize the industry, opening plants in rural areas far from union strongholds, recruiting immigrant workers from Mexico, introducing a new division of labor that eliminated the need for skilled butchers, and ruthlessly battling unions…Wages in the meatpacking industry soon fell by as much as 50 percent.
Once a plant is fully staffed and running, the more head of cattle slaughtered per hour, the less it costs to process each one. If the production line stops, for any reason, costs go up…The typical line speed in an American slaughterhouse 25 years ago was about 175 cattle per hour. Some line speeds now approach 400 cattle per hour.
One is reminded of a quote from Upton Sinclair’s famous meat industry expose, The Jungle, which writer Eric Schlosser begins his article with:
In the beginning he had been fresh and strong, and he had gotten a job the first day; but now he was second-hand, a damaged article, so to speak, and they did not want him… they had worn him out, with their speeding-up and their carelessness, and now they had thrown him away!
There’s also an interesting article in Harper’s this month, in which a reporter goes undercover as a U.S. Department of Agriculture meat plant inspection employee.
“The kill floor is…about the size of a football field,” writes Ted Conover. “Three workers are perched on hydraulic platforms fitted with electric saws, which they use to split hanging carcasses in half, right down the middle of the spinal column.”
One wonders just how a death there would be worded on the OSHA list.