The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance for employers and employees working meat packaging and processing plants. This coronavirus-related guidance includes the packaging of several types of poultry, beef, and pork.
The Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a respiratory illness that can travel between people who are within close contact to another through respiratory droplets produced by an infected person’s coughs, sneezes, or simply through communication. While the symptoms range from mild, sever, or no symptoms at all, meat and poultry processing workers are at a high risk of exposure due to close distance and contact with other workers.
Here are some recommendations to employers and employees to reduce the risk of exposure at work:
1. Create a Covid-19 assessment and control plan
- Employers should frequently check CDC’s and OSHA’s website for updated information regarding Covid-19.
- Instill a plan for testing and workplace contact tracing in order to easily identify the person-to-person spread in the workplace.
- Establish a system for employees to alter their supervisors if they experience any symptom of Covid-19.
- Engineering Controls:
- Keep a distance of 6 feet between workers in workstation to minimize contact.
- If possible, modify the processing lines to create physical barriers or dividers between workers.
- Allow work areas well ventilated, with proper air conditioning or heating to ensure adequate ventilation to workers (try to minimize direct air flow from one worker onto another to prevent any airborne or aerosolized viruses).
- Provide handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Hand sanitizer stations that are touch-free are ideal.
- Administrative Controls:
- Monitor workers distancing, ensuring each worker stays 6 feet apart.
- Stagger break times and lunches to ensure no overflow of workers in the room together.
- Stagger arrival and departure times for workers to avoid clustering in communal areas.
- Provide visual cues (e.g., floor markings and signs) to remind workers to maintain social distancing and practice hygiene.
- Discourage carpooling or provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if necessary.
- Educate employees on personal hygiene (e.g., the danger of hand-to-face contact when smoking cigarettes and smokeless tobacco), symptoms of COVID-19, and proper precautions they should take in the workplace.
- CDC recommends wearing cloth face masks or coverings. While cloth face masks are not considered PPE’s and are NOT appropriate substitutes. These masks are intended to protect others, not the wearer. If able, wear or provide N95 respirators or medical facemasks to provide better preventative support.
- Instill protocols for workers who test positive for Covid-19
- Demonstrate or provide information regarding how to properly wear and dispose of PPEs
2. Cleaning and Disinfection
- Ensure consistently used tools are cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- Disinfect frequently touched places like door handles, microwave and refrigerator handles, vending machines, and computers.Provide PPE for workers who perform cleaning and disinfection tasks
3. Screening Workers for COVID
- If possible, screen workers prior to entry into facility
- Provide verbal screening to determine if employee has had a fever, experience chills, coughing or difficulty breathing in the past 24 hours.
- Check employee’s temperature.
- Do not let employees with a fever of 100.4℉ or higher (or reporting feelings of feverishness) into the facility
4. Workers’ Rights
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Section 11(c), prohibits an employer from retaliating against workers for raising issues of safety and health conditions.
- OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program also protects employees from retaliation for raising health and safety concerns for various airline, commercial motor carriers, customer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, and tax laws. You may submit a complaint here: https://www.whistleblowers.gov/
Through our decades of experience in the food processing and legal industries, we have the knowledge and experience needed to efficiently and effectively address any legal situation that might arise. For help with food processing-related OSHA matters, please call (312) 894-3322 or fill out our contact form.
Additional OSHA COVID-19 Resources
OSHA to Consider Good Faith Efforts when Enforcing Compliance During COVID-19 Pandemic
Worker Exposure Risk to COVID-19