Zoonosis and meat workers

As part of an ongoing series of articles about the dangers of zoonotic diseases to meatworkers, we have previously dealt with Q Fever.

This article looks at Leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is one common zoonotic disease that affects cattle and pigs. this article will focus on how it is spread by pigs.

The disease has many forms, some of which can be life threatening. Slaughtermen and labourers are at extremely high risk, but whilst these workers are probably at highest risk, all meat workers are at a significantly higher risk that other members of the public.

How it Spreads
It is introduced into piggeries by the urine of carrier pigs or occasionally rodents and is more prevalent where sows lie in pools of urine or where sows are group housed with open drains.

Laboratory tests are the only means of positively identifying the bacteria – however chronic leptospirosis will produce small, pale lesions on the kidneys of an infected pig (white spot). In 1998 Australia’s pig health monitoring services reported that over 71,000 pigs examined by them, 4.2% had typical nephritis lesions on their kidneys.(ii)

Health Risk for Workers
Unvaccinated carrier pigs are a serious health risk to piggery and abattoir staff and transport drivers.
Human infection can cause prolonged and severe symptoms similar to those of the ‘flu, together with ongoing fatigue and joint soreness. The fatality rate is less than 1%, however in its serious form, copenhageni, the clinical syndrome is one of acute onset with fever, usually jaundice, malaise, vomiting, prostration muscle pains and head ache.

There may also be renal failure with haematuria, myocarditis, hepatitis or petechial and purpuric haemorrhages.

Leptospirosis is a notifiable disease – associated cases should be investigated to determine the source of infection. (iii)

Unfortunately there is no suitable vaccine for humans.

It is because of the potential of leptospirosis outbreaks to reach significant proportions; companies and insurers attempt to play down its significance – presumably because of the cost involved with workers compensation.

It is not uncommon for insurers to claim that a domestic pet caused the infection and to oppose the claim on that basis! It is possible to be infected by a domestic pet, if it has consumed contaminated water – however, for meat workers the balance of probability is that he or she has received the infection in the course of their employment.

The union will approach the Government with a view to introduce laws to help to protect meatworkers.

Ref: Queensland DPI (i) (ii) (iv)(vi), CSL, Commonwealth Department of Community Services and Health (Synopsis of Zoonosis in Australia)(iii) (v)

Posted by Super-Admin in Occupational Health and Safety

Say No! campaign


Following a number of terrible workplace accidents in the meat industry, the Union is now running a campaign to try and stop workers from putting themselves, or allowing others to put them in situations of danger.

The meat industry uses incredibly dangerous machinery that can horribly disfigure workers for life.

Most of these accidents are caused through lack of proper training or unsafe handling.

Often heard at the scene of such accidents are:

  • He got behind and I was just trying to help out …
  • I didn’t see any signs about it …
  • I didn’t know that you couldn’t do that …
  • There was no guard on it …
  • The operation manual didn’t say anything about that …
  • The safety button wasn’t working but I couldn’t stop the line …
  • I was trying to unjam it …
  • Maintenance never fix anything property, its always just bandaid job the …
  • The boss told me to use it, what could I do?

What indeed?

photo by Andrew De La Rue. ‘The Age’

The focus of this campaign is aimed at educating workers that just because someone, even the boss, tells you to do something, that doesn’t automatically make it a lawful command.

Workers are required to follow all lawful commands at work, but if a command places a worker at any risk in terms of safety, then it is not a lawful command.

You ARE allowed to say NO!

No! I haven’t been trained.
No! I’m not sure how to use it.
No! the proper safety device isn’t working or worse, isn’t fitted.
No! it’s not safe.

Say No! To Unsafe Work Practices

Posted by Super-Admin in Occupational Health and Safety

Health and safety

Work stress – we don’t need it

We are under pressure to work harder and faster.  Too many workers are facing increasing workloads, longer hours, job insecurity, understaffing, stress, bullying, deficient management and poor work organization.

People are feeling mental stress on top of physical work strain.  Work stress can cause muscle tension, headaches and chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, arms and backs.  Stress can also make existing injuries and pain worse.

More people are likely to be suffering from work strain when workers have little or no say in how work is done.  And, when people feel they have no choice but to keep on working while injured or in pain, the injuries persist and the pain just gets worse.

Stress + strain = real pain


There’s no need for it

There have been health and safety laws in Australian states and territories for more than 15 years.  These laws are meant to prevent work strain injuries, but many employers do not follow them and governments are not enforcing them.

Despite the huge number of musculoskeletal injuries caused by work strain, less than 1% of the employers who caused them have been prosecuted.

What are employers doing

Too many employers are talking about workers needing to lift properly, to practice stress management, or they ‘rotate’ workers from one unsafe job to another.  These ‘solutions’ do not prevent work strain.

On top of this, employers often intimidate and blame workers for being injured or in pain, when work strain is the cause.

Common symptoms of work strain

* painful necks and shoulders
* aching or stabbing pains in arms or wrists
* feelings of pins and needles
* aching legs, knees and feet
* backaches and back injuries
* stress or tension headaches
* continual tiredness / exhaustion

For more information, contact the union, or call the ACTU Hotline on 1300 362 223

Union workplaces are safer places

Posted by Super-Admin in Occupational Health and Safety

Walk a day in my shoes

Tony Mooney, Labor candidate for the federal seat of Herbert, walks a day in the life of a meatworker.


Posted by Super-Admin in Meat Workers