COVID-19 Guidelines For Meat Processing Industry - Worksite Medical
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The meat processing industry has had several highly publicized outbreaks of COVID-19 in the past several weeks.

On May 1, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that more than 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states have reported workers infected with COVID-19. The industry employs approximately 130,000 workers, and has recorded 20 deaths along with nearly 5,000 cases since the outbreak began. 

OSHA and the CDC released special guidance that calls for poultry and meat processing plants to conduct worksite assessments in order to identify and mitigate COVID-19 risks. 

The guide, released on April 26, provides specific recommendations for the meat processing industry, where people normally work closely together and share workspaces and equipment. It provides a full list of recommendations, including administrative and engineering controls. 

 

CDC Recommendations For Meat Processing Facilities

 

Here are several recommendations made by the CDC to minimize meat processing workers’ exposure to the virus: 

  • Screen workers before they enter the workplace.
  • If a worker becomes sick, send him/her home and disinfect his/her workstation and any tools that person used.
  • Move workstations farther apart.
  • Install partitions between workstations using strip curtains, plexiglass, or similar materials.
  • To limit spread between groups, assign the same workers to the same shifts with the same coworkers.
  • Prevent workers from using other workers’ equipment.
  • Allow workers to wear face coverings when entering, inside, and exiting the facility.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns to their supervisors.

 

Center For Food Safety Response

 

The Centers for Food Safety and the Food Chain Workers Alliance do not agree that the guidance is doing enough to protect workers, and have filed a rulemaking petition with OSHA. These groups are urging the agency to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect workers in the meat and poultry processing industries. 

The petition outlines a proposed emergency standard that would include, at a minimum, the following: 

  • The development of a COVID-19 assessment and control plan at each plant.
  • Physical distancing measures and physical barriers to separate workers.
  • Essential protective gear, including face masks, provided by the plants for each worker.
  • A prohibition on sick workers from coming to work and paid leave and health care for those workers.
  • Slower line speeds, if necessary.
  • Education and training for all workers on reducing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of tools and equipment.
  • A process for notifying workers of possible exposure if a worker is confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Increased plant inspections by OSHA to ensure compliance.

You can find additional resources and learn more about OSHA’s response to the coronavirus at https://www.worksitemed.com/coronavirus-resources/ and www.osha.gov/coronavirus.

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About Worksite Medical

In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.

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