Federal agencies Workplace exposures Food Manufacturing

COVID-19 pandemic: CDC develops toolkit for assessing meat, poultry processing facilities

chicken production line

Photo: andresr/iStockphoto

Washington — A new online toolkit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is intended to assist safety professionals and health officials in assessing COVID-19 pandemic-related prevention and control measures at meat and poultry processing facilities.

CDC says that although handling meat products does not expose workers to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, “their work environments – processing lines and other areas in busy plants where they have close contact with co-workers and supervisors – may contribute substantially to their potential exposures.”

The toolkit features a pair of quick reference guides – available in 14 languages – that outline recommendations and strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in meat and poultry processing facilities.

Additionally, CDC provides a facility assessment checklist it recommends employers complete when they form control plans, as well as each time the plan is revised. The agency offers guidance for pre-assessment, facility walkthrough and post-assessment scenarios, as well as lists numerous pandemic control measures in conjunction with CDC/OSHA guidance. These include:

  • Work environments configured for spacing of at least 6 feet apart between workers
  • Workers not facing each other when possible
  • Use of physical barriers, such as partitions, to separate workers in production areas when 6 feet of spacing isn’t possible
  • Adjusting and staggering shifts, break times, and/or meals to promote physical distancing
  • Providing hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations, as well as training on hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette
  • Implementing a screening strategy for all individuals entering a workplace

On the checklist, CDC notes that “not every row would necessarily need to be checked ‘Yes’ to have an effective program and an effective set of controls in place at a given facility.” The agency says consultation between worksites and safety professionals – with input from health officials as needed – is necessary to ensure facilities meet CDC/OSHA guidance.

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