Federal guidelines aim at protecting U.S. meat processing workers
The federal government has issued guidelines designed to protect workers at meatpacking and meat processing plants like Fresh Mark in Salem.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday released joint coronavirus-related interim guidance for such facilities, 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 coronavirus.
The coronavirus has affected many meat and poultry processing facility workers in plants in several U.S. states. While the meat products these workers handle do not expose them to the coronavirus, close contact with coworkers and supervisors may contribute to their potential exposures.
Fresh Mark's processing plant in Salem closed for more than a week earlier this month after several employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The interim guidance from OSHA and the CDC issued this past weekend 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.
- Practicing social distancing at the workplace.
When Fresh Mark announced that it was reopening the Salem plant, company officials say they instituted following health safety procedures:
Wellness Screenings - Upon arrival to work employees and onsite nurses will:
Take each employee's temperature. Anyone with a fever will not be permitted at work and must self-isolate for three days until fever free. Temperatures will be taken three times a day.
Ask each employee a series of questions related to his/her current health status three times daily.
Provide each employee with a pair of disposable gloves. Employees who work in operations or in an office will be provided with instructions for wearing gloves throughout facilities.
Each employee will be provided with a mask to be worn at all times. Employees will be given a clean mask every day. Employees are permitted to wear personal masks if preferred.
Nurse Hotline - In addition to onsite nurses, there is a hotline for team members with any COVID-19 medical concerns. Nurses will be available to answer questions.
Sanitation - Common areas are to be sanitized every 30 minutes, including doorknobs, lunchrooms, break rooms, restrooms, etc.
Social Distancing requirements will be enforced on all Fresh Mark property. Workers are also encouraged to practice social distancing outside of work and to wear a mask, if available.