Meat Packing Industry

Ergonomic Risk Factor Evaluations of High Risk Professions

Meat Packing Industry


Many occupations have physical demands that place employees at high risk for musculoskeletal disorders.  Ergonomic work design is an important aspect in prevention of injuries, but sometimes the work tasks cannot be modified due to operational, engineering, or economic constraints.  You have been assigned an occupation that has a high risk for ergonomic or musculoskeletal disorders due to the physical demands of the tasks associated with the work.


You must research your profession and develop a written report.  The written report must be typewritten; at least seven pages of 11-point font text, double spaced with one-inch margins on all sides.  Drawings and other supporting materials must be appended. The seven pages must not include appendices or the bibliography.  The report should cite at least three peer reviewed journal articles or government research findings in a reference list. See the writing guide for additional instructions. Write the paper in active voice and in a manner that no section is identifiable as being written by a different author.


You must imagine that you are the human factors specialists who have been hired by a client company to evaluate and assess the occupation for ergonomic risk factors and develop a set of recommendations to either eliminate or mitigate the risks.  The risks discussed in the paper and presentation should focus on Ergonomic or Human Factor risks only.  Other types of hazards such as physical, biological, or chemical, should not be addressed unless they have a direct correlation to human factors, ergonomics, or musculoskeletal disorders.


The paper should discuss the following topics:

  • Review of available Injury and Illness data for the occupation/product
  • Review of common physical tasks associated with the profession/product
  • Review of ergonomic risk factors associated with the tasks/products
  • Suggested ergonomic controls that could be implemented to either eliminate or mitigate the risks
  • Discussion of costs vs benefit of implementing controls vs. doing nothing


You should use ergonomic information from the course text, your notes and research to support your recommendations. You can include photos, sketches and/or drawings with the report, but again, they must be appended.


This is your opportunity to undertake some creative human factors design and problem solving.  Whatever you include must be supported by sound human factors and ergonomic rationale.





Meat Packing Industry

Meat Packing Industry

This is the first of its kind report to evaluate and assess the meatpacking industry ergonomic risks and develop recommendations to eradicate or mitigate the risks. After visiting meatpacking Industries and, observing their daily operation and processes, it is clear that there is a need for ergonomic intervention. From the skinning of the animal to the processing stage worker in this Industry, workers are at risk of exposure of musculoskeletal disorders because of insufficient rest, constant forceful exertions, and prolonged awkward postures. This report is a product of concise and precise evaluation, analysis in pursuant for practical recommendations to eradicate the work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Available injuries and illnesses

In the preliminary stages of compiling this report, it was crucial to review existing data on the injuries sustained or associated from working in the meatpacking Industry. Workers in the meat industry make up a significant percentage of the informal job market. According to 2015 CPS data, the US has approximately 526,000 workers in the Meat Industry. The meat cutters are spread out across the 5,350 meat and poultry slaughterhouses, three-quarter of these operating as combined slaughterhouses and packing industries. According to this report, it is evident that ergonomic risks in the Industry can have adverse effects on a significant population in the society (US GAO, 2016). It is, therefore, crucial to deepened research on this Industry to identify the prevalence of illnesses and injuries — the demographic representation of the packing industry to identify an actionable, correct diagnosis for ergonomic risks to prevents impacts of musculoskeletal disorder in the society.

According to a 2018 statistical data report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there a dramatic decline in the number of illnesses and injuries. In 2017 a total of 4.6 per 100 workers cases were reported compared to that of 3.6 in 2018.  The 2018 data compared the incidence rate in 1989 of 20.1 to 4.3 in 2018 as an illustration of a sustained Industry trend of work safety Improvement.

Common tasks

Most of the meatpacking plants have a slaughterhouse; therefore, workers may alternate within the departments’ activities depending on their specialty and skills. A typical day in the meat packaging section involves cutting, trimming processing and packaging. Advancements in technology have made many operations computerized, although most of all, cutting and processing are manual. The first task is leading the animals from the holding pen into the plant. While in the plant, animals are shot with a stunner gun to make them unconscious. During this stage, the worker employs maximum force and repeats the task at a relatively high speed to shot every animal. At this point, stunning and bleeding of the carcass takes place using air-powered knives-new knives currently used large plants.

After this the carcass is mounted on the conveyor belts, then the head and shank are removed Then the carcass is cutting using hand tools such as power saws, which requires exertion of maximum force, quick repetition and prolonged bending postures to split into the required pieces. This process exposes the workers to contact stress depending on the pressure exerted on cutting the animal, the sharpness of the knife and the rate of repetition. After cutting the front and hindquarters are trimmed to remove the skin, depending on the plant, some conduct further processing of the meat while others package the pieces based on customer’s specification. Further processing requires the use of heavy grinders, presses, slicers, electric meat tenderizers and smokehouses. Many plants have electric processing equipment but the room in cold rooms of 4 degrees C range which can sometimes become slippery.  Shallow temperatures

affects the soft tissues of the  musculoskeletal system, thereby  leading to pathological complications that limit the normal function of the body.

Ergonomic risks

A wide range of ergonomic risk factors surrounds the Meatpacking Industry. Workers in this Industry are prone to severe musculoskeletal disorders. The initial stages of meatpacking are leading the animals to the plant. This process is a strenuous process of push and pulls and requires repetitive forceful exertions. The dominant hand scurried guiding and directing the animals to the plant (Mkhopadhya & Khan, 2015). During bleeding and stunning workers stand for long hours in  the same posture without rest. In this activity, the upper limb and lower limb is continuously in motion cutting the skin and removing it from the carcass. This stage poses a potential hazard for musculoskeletal disease as standing in one position for long hours limits the flow of blood to all the body parts.

Mounting of the shank to conveyor belts requires maximum force and constant bending to pick the carcass as a result straining the lower back. Removal of the head and shank involves quick repetition as the conveyor system is always in motion. During this task, the worker stands or bends at an awkward posture to be on the same level as the conveyor belt. Also, workers may experience contact stress when hooking the carcass on the disassembly lines. Manual handling of the knives and blades during head and shank removal requires the meat cutter to apply forceful exertions while bending. The last task in the meatpacking Industry involves processing and packing, whereby the worker does much heavy lifting to place the meat in the refrigerators and cooling rooms.

Suggested ergonomic controls

Given the technical nature of the meatpacking Industry control intervention in this sector will require a well-integrated ergonomic mechanism. One of the primary control that should be implemented effective immediately is the design and non –design intervention. This approach involves a change in hand tools and work station designs as well as resting cycles, working postures, exercising and provision of proper training programs. Re-designing these structures reduces the awkward postures, repetitive activities, forceful exertions and inadequate rest, thus reducing the impact of ergonomics risk. There is also the need to apply an anthropometric dimension when selecting meat cutters in this Industry. An effective anthropometric system allows meat cutters to work under compatible and suitable conditions in accordance to their height, body posture, knee height, and pinch grip, elbow breadth thus reducing potential health risks and enhancing work performance.

Scientific and medical research has recommended aerobics exercises for meat cutters to tone their muscles and avoid potential damage. Due to the physical and technical complexities of the meatpacking Industry employers should identify the strengths, skills, characteristics, body variations as well as their dominant traits of the employee in order to assign those roles and duties that require minimal strain. For example, a left-handed person is more efficient in deboning than a right-handed person; this is because he/she performs the task using the supination movement quickly and safely compared to pronation movement used by a right-handed person. Lastly, workers should receive adequate training on proper usage of hand tools and equipment’s to foster safety and occupational health and as a result, enhance productivity and quality of work in this Industry.

Cost v. s benefit v. s no alternative

Given the hefty costs of implementing the proposed control interventions, decisions will be made based on cost vs. benefits v. as the no-action alternative rationale. In terms of redesigning the tools and workstation design, this will incur considerable costs to the meatpacking industries. The onset of implementation process this control involves a feasibility study to analyze the purchase of appropriates tools, work station designs and familiarization with the general costs. This study would also cover the extent to which proper training, work rests, would incur including computation of annual or monthly reduction of return of reduction on meatpacking Industry investment. Analysis of the existing work practices, ergonomic risks requires the input of human factor specialist. However, OSHA recommends training an in house manager for the successful implementation of the ergonomic controls in an establishment.

It is also worth noting that the money spent in the feasibility analysis does no cover implementation of the technical tools and work practice.  Regardless of the enormous costs of adopting control interventions makes perfect sense (Chow & Morgan, 2007). Based on the limitation of correcting many musculoskeletal disorders, the benefits outweigh the cost. Ergonomic controls increase work output and quality, thereby positioning the Industry for economic success. It is therefore essential for managers   and technical operators and ergonomists to take into consideration the need to act in case of any problem jobs not only to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders but also heightened performance and quality of the services.

Considering all the barriers that derail implementation of change, it is not rational to do nothing about these ergonomic controls. Firstly, the Occupational Safety Health Administration provides adequate ergonomic resources to facilitate the implementation of different control interventions on short term and long term basis. At the moment, the agency has a wide range of management training materials that would help an in house manager learn fundamental elements of ergonomics. Plans are also underway to distribute materials countrywide to create an ergonomic impact on small and established businesses. These resources are designed to help with management training in the event establishments without a program are required to adopt one.

Provision of these materials allows many Industries to fix in house job problems by implementing temporary control interventions. According to David Alexander, a consultant at OSHA in-house manager with basic knowledge of ergonomics can solve 15% of ergonomics risks. These job problems include the allocation of rest periods, work cycles. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are a significant health risk to meat cutters and require and require immediate intervention. There is no justifiable reason for an Organization to initiate the control interventions program. Any possible design or non-design intervention no matter its impact is crucial to making the meatpacking work humane and sustainable. It is therefore of paramount importance for Industries to turn a blind eye to common work-related musculoskeletal diseases based on lack of resources.

No one deserves to suffer from life-changing muscular impairments that cause abnormal functioning of the musculoskeletal system due to selfish and ignorance of a few limited parties. Failure to implement the control intervention will limit productivity, quality of the workers, induce more compensation costs, reduce employee participation, and destroy the Industries working culture, thereby making the meatpacking Industry less lucrative. Not only does the work output decrease, but potential clients can shy away from partnering or investing in the meatpacking Industry. As a result, the industry is at risk of facing significant lawsuits for the poor working environment.

The findings in this report indicate the adverse ergonomic risks the meatpacking Industry poses to its workers. It is, therefore, critical to apply viable ergonomic controls to eradicate and mitigate work-related musculoskeletal disorders. There is an urgent need to adopt designs that make working in the informal sector humane and sustainable. Implementation of adequate ergonomic controls would lay the basis for viable and practical hand tools, workstations and

Work process design.


Chow, & Morgan. ( 2007). The economic Impact of Implementing and ergonomic plan. Nurse Econ Journal, 150-600.

Mkhopadhya, & Khan. (2015). The evaluation of ergonomic risk factors among meat cutters working in Jabalpur, India. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 192-198.

US GAO. (2016). Work Place Safety and Health Additional Data Needed to Address Continued Hazards in the Meat and Poultry Industry. GAO.



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