Four workers at an Iowa Tyson plant that processes pork suffered burn injuries on the job in an accident Monday, Jan. 2. Two of the workers are said to be in critical condition.
According to KCCI Channel 8 Des Moines, Dallas County Chief Deputy Adam Infante said that two of the workers were flown to the University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center in Iowa City for the treatment of critical burn injuries to their heads, faces, and upper torsos.
The other two workers were treated for lesser burn injuries at a health services department at the Tyson Pork Processing plant in Perry, Iowa.
Few details about the workplace accident have been released, but various reports said there was no fire at the plant. According to Farm Journal’s Pork magazine, the workers sustained burn injuries from steam.
The plant, which employs about 1,200 people, has had a good safety record up to this point, according to Pork magazine, but meat processing plants continue to be some of the most dangerous workplaces in the U.S., with workers frequently exposed to amputation and laceration hazards, chemical exposures, burn injuries, and injuries resulting from repetitive motion.
According to a Dec. 29 report by Bloomberg about the dangers workers face in Tyson plants and other meat processing operations, many of the workers are undocumented immigrants employed by Packers Sanitation Services, the nation’s largest cleaning contractor to the food industry.
According to Bloomberg:
Judging from Packers’s record, the nightly storm of high-pressure hoses, chemical vapors, blood, grease, and frantic deadlines, all swirling in clouds of steam around pulsing belts, blades, and blenders, can be treacherous. From 2015 through September 2016, Packers had the 14th-highest number of severe injuries—defined as an amputation, hospitalization, or the loss of an eye—among the 14,000 companies tracked by OSHA in 29 states, according to data analyzed by the National Employment Law Project, or NELP.
Bloomberg says that even that snapshot of worker injuries in America’s meat processing plants understates the risks.
With about 17,000 workers, Packers is a fraction of the size of the 13 companies above it on [the National Employment Law Project] danger scorecard, including the U.S. Postal Service (No. 1), Tyson (No. 4), and Pilgrim’s Pride (No. 6). Adjusting for size, Packers topped the danger list by a wide margin, with a rate of 14 severe injuries for every 10,000 workers. Its amputation rate of 9.4 dismemberments per 10,000 workers was almost five times higher than for U.S. manufacturing workers as a whole in 2015.