“No somos máquinas” (We are not machines): Worker perspectives of safety culture in meatpacking plants in the Midwest

Athena K. Ramos, Marcela Carvajal-Suarez, Natalia Trinidad, Sophia Quintero, Diana Molina, Sheri A. Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Meatpacking is dangerous, dirty, and demanding (3-D) work—much of which is done by immigrant workers. It is characterized by high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses due to the speed of the production line, repetitive motions, and other inherent exposures. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore perceptions of safety culture among Hispanic/Latino meatpacking workers in the Midwest. Methods: Five focus groups with a total of 28 participants were conducted between March 2019 and February 2020 with Hispanic/Latino meatpacking workers in Nebraska. Workers were asked about the type of work performed, how the work was physically done, and perceptions of health risks and exposures. Thematic analysis was used to build a description of safety culture within the meatpacking industry. Results: Three main themes were found: (1) workers depicted a culture where companies cared more about production than people; (2) workers felt powerless in improving their situation; and (3) workers noted that the work was precarious, both dangerous and one where much of the responsibility for safety was shifted to the individual workers. Conclusions: The meatpacking industry has a poor safety culture. Safety culture within the industry may be improved by ensuring that organizational values and artifacts are aligned with safety by addressing the critical role of supervisors, providing culturally and linguistically appropriate consistent safety training and messaging to the workforce, and enforcing and strengthening safety regulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-96
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Hispanic/Latino
  • food manufacturing
  • meatpacking
  • occupational health
  • safety
  • vulnerable workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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