Workers in the meat cutting and shredding industry are at a high risk for experiencing the most common of ergonomic injuries: musculoskeletal disorders.
Most food processing companies will invest in equipment to keep workers safe from cuts associated with slicing and shredding, but tend to overlook preventing injuries that arise from awkward posture and repetitive movement tasks that can be just as debilitating.
Cuts happen in an instant and the effects are seen immediately. Musculoskeletal disorders develop over time, and can affect even the safest of workers.
What are Musculoskeletal Disorders?
Musculoskeletal disorders are caused from the development of damage to muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs over time. Rarely are they the result of a single event or accident, meaning it can take weeks, months, or even years to develop the symptoms and catch the injuries before they result in lost work. They can result from microtraumas, produce no symptoms or show no findings on medical tests until irreversible damage has occurred, and vary in symptoms from person to person.
Some of the most common symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders include:
- Pain from movement, pressure, or exposure to cold or vibration
- Change in skin color from exposure to cold or vibration
- Numbness or tingling in the legs, arms, hands, or fingers
- Decreased range of motion in the joints
- Decreased grip strength
- Swelling of a joint or part of the arm, hand, finger, or leg
- Fatigue or difficulty in keeping up with performance requirements
While these may seem like minor injuries compared to fractures and amputations, musculoskeletal disorders often lead to an inability to perform one’s job — and result in hefty costs to the employer and employee.
Risk Factors in Meat Cutting and Shredding
Cutting, slicing, and shredding meat by hand poses a number of risks of developing musculoskeletal disorders:
- Awkward wrist angles when slicing or shredding meat
- Awkward arm and shoulder positions when slicing or shredding meat
- Forceful movements when pushing a knife or shredding claws into meat
- Highly repetitive movements in cutting, slicing, and shredding
- Bent neck and back working at equipment
One wrong movement in cutting or shredding meat repeated all day builds up.
Left unaddressed, these risk factors can lead to serious injuries that affect your employees’ ability to work and can cost you thousands, if not millions, in injury settlements.
Reduce the Risk of Ergonomic Injuries
So how do you reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in your cutting and shredding operation? Consider making a small investment in some ergonomic solutions.
Purchasing knives and shredding claws with ergonomically shaped handles will help keep workers’ wrists and hands angled correctly to avoid awkward posture. This simple adjustment in holding a knife or shredding claws will protect employees from developing issues like sprained wrists, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and bursitis.
Many food service equipment catalogs will feature ergonomic knives and shredding claws.
Cutting & Shredding Safety Training
Many people aren’t taught the proper way to hold and cut meat in the home, mostly because it’s not something they do all day, and bring their unsafe methods into the workplace.
Training workers on the proper way to cut and shred meat is an essential way to reduce the risk of injuries.
Equipping cutting and shredding stations with wrist rests can drastically help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders by ensure employee wrists are angled at the proper height to cut or shred meat.
An improper working height contributes to workers’ cutting and shredding at an awkward angle. Equipping work stations with ergonomic stands will position employees at the best height to cut and shred meat.
Invest in Safety
A small investment in ergonomic solutions goes a long way to preventing musculoskeletal disorders in your workers who are cutting and shredding meat — reducing your risk of a costly injury payout. Make the choice to invest in safety to protect your workers and your profits.