During a group A streptococcus (GAS) outbreak 21 abattoir workers developed skin infections. The unusual outbreak strain (emm 108.1) was cultured from five workers and four persons in the community with links to the abattoir. The attack rate was 26% in the lamb line. Communal nailbrushes were neither routinely disinfected nor changed, and had high bacterial counts. A cohort study found a higher risk from working in the gutting area and getting cuts on hands more than weekly. Despite high bacterial counts daily nailbrush use had a lower risk, as did always wearing disposable gloves. Working in the gutting area (OR 11·44) and nailbrush use at least once a day (OR 0·04) were significant in the multivariate model. Transmission of infection is likely to have occurred on carcasses. GAS infection among abattoir workers was once common. Simple hygiene measures, such as nailbrush use, may reduce the impact of future outbreaks.