Interim Guidance for Meatpackaging and Meat Processing Industry

OSHA and the CDC have teamed together to provide Americans with an interim guidance for workers and employers in the meat packaging and meat processing industry—especially given recent sick workers.

Given recent news headlines, the meatpackaging and processing industry has not been friendly with the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Within the last month or so, in an effort to keep up with the country’s meat demands, big processors saw plants become coronavirus hot spots as many workers fell ill.

One Washington Post article discusses the severity of the issue—and why meat plants have been particularly vulnerable to the virus. Three of the nation’s largest meat processors failed to provide protective gear to all workers, and some workers said they were told to continue working in crowded places. According to the article, outbreaks in more than 30 plants run by these just three meat companies have sickened at least 3,300 workers and killed at least 17.

OSHA and the CDC released joint coronavirus-related interim guidance for meatpacking and meat processing workers and employers—including those involved in beef, pork and poultry operations. The guidance includes recommended actions employers can take to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.

“As essential workers, those in the meatpacking and processing industries need to be protected from coronavirus for their own safety and health,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA’s newest guidance document outlines steps employers can take to provide a safe and healthy workplace for workers in the meatpacking and processing industries.”

The interim guidance from OSHA and the CDC includes information regarding:

  • Cleaning of shared meatpacking and processing tools;
  • Screening employees for the coronavirus before they enter work facilities;
  • Managing workers who are showing symptoms of the coronavirus;
  • Implementing appropriate engineering, administrative, and work practice controls;
  • Using appropriate personal protective equipment; and
  • Practicing social distancing at the workplace.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage for frequent updates. For more information on the virus, go to the CDC’s webpage. For more information related to the virus and the workplace, go to OH&S Magazine’s Coronavirus page.

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