“Through this alliance, we look forward to working with OSHA to continue our work to protect the health and safety of the men and women who work in meat and poultry facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter,” said Meat Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Julie Anna Potts. “These workers are essential to making food for our nation and are a critical part of our rural economies.”
According to the OSHA press release, this two-year alliance will focus on developing information on how to recognize COVID-19 transmission risks and best practices. Participants in the alliance will conduct outreach to small and medium facilities through the On-Site Consultation program. The two organizations hope to provide guidance and compliance assistance resources, as well as providing information on OSHA’s enforcement politics and the procedures relevant to the meatpacking industry.
How Does COVID-19 Affect Meatpacking?
This alliance comes as meatpacking and processing facilities across the country are struggling with the new challenges of producing food while facing a pandemic.
Several meatpacking facilities have been a center of COVID-19 outbreaks. And, as Americans continue to buy more groceries than ever in an effort to stay home, facilities are struggling to keep up with production.
“The security of America’s food supply relies on meat processing facilities continuing to operate with a healthy workforce,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Together, OSHA and the North American Meat Institute can help ensure that employers in this critical industry have the tools and information they need to protect workers from the risk of the coronavirus.”
State-level efforts are also being made to create policies and procedures to prevent transmissions, track outbreaks, and create more safeguards to keeping meatpacking workers safe.
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 for COVID-19 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.
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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