Aim: To characterise work related hand and lower arm injuries among New Zealand meat processors and to identify practices used for protecting the hands of this group of workers.
Methods: These involved identifying and describing, from Department of Health national data, hand and lower arm injuries sustained by meat workers in New Zealand which resulted in hospitalisation during the period 1979-88, examining injury case records from selected meat processing plants for the period 1987-93 and identifying protective clothing practices in the meat processing industry.
Results: A significant increase in the hospitalisation rate for the period 1979-88 was identified (3.3 per 1000 to 5.3 per 1000; chi(2) = 33.14, df = 1, p < 0.001) with cutting and piercing being the most common injury event. Reported use of protective gloves and covers for the lower arm by meat workers was high (93% and 66% respectively) and also probably increased.
Conclusion: Why injury rates rose during a period in which use of protective gloves reportedly increased is unclear. Possible explanations are discussed.