Multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 among meat and poultry processing facility workers have occurred in the U.S. recently. CDC’s guidance document provides guidance for meat and poultry processing workers and employers—including those involved in beef, pork, and poultry operations. To address the growing issue, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued new guidance for the meat and poultry industry that advises creating a COVID-19 assessment and control plan. That plan, according to CDC, should involve and entail the following:
- A qualified workplace coordinator should be identified who will be responsible for COVID-19 assessment and control planning. All workers in the facility should know how to contact the identified coordinator with any COVID-19 concerns.
- Infection control and occupational safety and health plans should apply to anyone entering or working in the plant (e.g., all facility workers, contractors, and others).
- Facility management should reach out to state and/or local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals and establish ongoing communications to make sure they are getting relevant and up-to-date information concerning COVID-19.
- The workplace coordinators and management should also be aware of and follow all applicable federal regulations and public health agency guidelines.
- Worksite assessments to identify COVID-19 risks and prevention strategies should be done periodically as part of sound occupational health and public health practice. As part of these assessments, facilities should consider the appropriate role for testing and workplace contact tracing (identifying person-to-person spread) of COVID-19-positive workers in a worksite risk assessment, following available CDC guidance.
The plan's focus areas should include controls (engineering and administrative); guidelines for cloth face coverings; cleaning and disinfection; worker screening and monitoring; managing sick workers; assessing guidelines for previously sick employees returning to work; personal protective equipment; workers' rights; and more.
CDC says that all meat and poultry processing facilities developing plans for continuing operations in the setting of COVID-19 occurring among workers or in the surrounding community should:
- Work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals;
- Incorporate relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including but not limited to this document and the CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance; and
- Incorporate guidance from other authoritative sources or regulatory bodies as needed.
The new guidance supplements but does not replace general guidance published by OSHA, and CDC’s other COVID-19 resources.
This article was reproduced with permission from Food Safety Magazine
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