WASHINGTON – On April 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced new interim guidelines for US meat production plants during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The agencies said employers should encourage single-file movement throughout the facility with six feet of distance between workers whenever possible. In addition, workers should be designated to monitor and facilitate worker social distancing on processing floor lines.

Companies should also stagger break times or provide temporary break areas and restrooms to avoid groups of workers congregating during breaks, as well as arrival and departure times to prevent gatherings of workers in parking areas, locker rooms and near time clocks. 

CDC and OSHA stated in the document that visual cues should be put on the floor as a reminder to workers to keep social distancing. Finally, the guidelines also encourage workers to avoid carpooling to and from work. 

If carpooling or using company shuttle vehicles is a necessity for workers, the following control practices should be used:

  • Limit the number of people per vehicle as much as possible. This may mean using more vehicles.
  • Encourage employees to maintain social distancing as much as possible.
  • Encourage employees to use hand hygiene before entering the vehicle and when arriving at the destination.
  • Encourage employees in a shared van or car space to wear cloth masks.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces after each carpool or shuttle trip (e.g., door handles, handrails, seatbelt buckles).
  • Encourage employees to follow coughing and sneezing etiquette when in the vehicle.

The document pointed to factors that affect an employee’s risk of exposure to the virus, including people working closely together on the processing line and working closely together for a prolonged period.

Different types of contact in a meat and poultry processing plant also could expose workers to the virus like shared spaces in the break rooms, locker rooms and entrances/exits to the facility. Shared tools and workstations are also an issue of making the virus spread quickly. 

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