OSHA

From left: Kevin and Zo Bock and Inga Klahr, family members of those killed in the Atchison grain elevator explosion. The Bocks' son, Chad Roberts, and Klahr's husband, Darrek, were among those killed in the 2011 explosion.
Brad Austion / Flatland

ATCHISON, Kan. — The families of six men killed when a grain elevator blew up on the banks of the Missouri River here in 2011 have now waited well over five and a half years for closure in the case.

But the hurt is still raw, they say; for them, it could have happened yesterday.

The meatpacking plants that enable American consumers to find cheap hamburger and chicken wings in the grocery store are among the most dangerous places to work in the country. Federal regulators and meat companies agree more must be done to make slaughterhouses safer, and while there are signs the industry is stepping up its efforts, danger remains.

The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The nights were often worse for Gabriel, even after long days working on the production line at a pork slaughterhouse in Nebraska.

He had nightmares that the line – what the workers call “the chain” – was moving so fast, that instead of gutted hogs flying by, there were people.

“You’ve been working there for three hours, four hours, and you’re working so fast and you see the pigs going faster, faster,” he says. 

On the worst day of Greta Horner’s life, she was dressed in a burlap robe, waiting by the window for her husband to come home from work.

The couple was down to one car. The other one was in the shop. She donned the costume for a play, set in Old Jerusalem, later that morning, part of Vacation Bible School at the church. She just needed the car to get there.