April 30, 2020
US releases new poultry processing employee safety guidelines
Industry-specific interim guidance aimed at further protecting essential poultry processing workforce in the US was released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reported the National Chicken Council.
CDC's new guidance reiterates that meat and poultry processing facilities are part of the nation's critical infrastructure and that CDC "advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community." CDC recommends facilities take measures to reduce COVID-19 risks. Specifically, the new guidance reiterates many already identified mitigation measures including social distancing, engineering controls to minimise potential contact, protective gear and face coverings, shift staggering, health screenings, training and awareness, and financial incentives not to report to work sick.
"We appreciate the administration's new guidance in an effort to further keep our workers safe and keep food on the shelves," said NCC President Mike Brown. "The biggest challenge we are experiencing is inconsistencies among state and local health departments and government officials who, in many circumstances, are developing their own criteria for maintaining operations with little or no consideration to previously-issued guidance which adds to confusion and can lead to unnecessary shutdowns. This patchwork approach is posing grave risk to the supply chain and threatening great disruption to NCC member companies. There must be a uniform approach across all states. NCC is urging states to immediately adopt CDC, OSHA and USDA guidelines. When considering human health and food supply issues, time is of the essence."
The guidance released this week is consistent with many of the practices chicken plants have already implemented across the industry.