Meat and poultry processing facilities have been among the industries hit hardest by the pandemic. At least 86 workers have died and more than 16,200 in 239 facilities have been exposed to or infected by the virus, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Numerous reasons can be and have been pointed out on why this industry has been hit so hard:

  • Prolonged close workplace contact with coworkers (within 6 feet for ≥15 minutes) for long time periods (8–12 hour shifts)
  • Shared workspaces
  • Shared transportation to and from the workplace
  • Congregate housing
  • Frequent community contact with fellow workers
  • Cold and damp conditions on the work-floor that offer the perfect environment for the virus to spread
  • The fact that these sites often have noisy machinery that requires people to talk more loudly or shout which may increase the spread of infected droplets
While numbers are grim, companies are taking action to limit further outbreaks and spread by implementing measurements. Commonly implemented interventions include worker screenings, source control measures (universal face coverings), engineering controls (physical barriers), and infection prevention measures (additional hand hygiene stations), in addition to cleaning factories more often than usual, isolating staff who develop symptoms, and staggering start and break times.

While I fear more outbreaks may still occur, it is encouraging to see companies take responsibility and make the effort to limit exposure in the workplace, and keep our food supply chain safe.

Sources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6927e2.htm
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/53137613