Meatpacking Plants to Remain Open During the Pandemic

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The meatpacking industry is classified as critical infrastructure in the United States. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, 5,300 of its members have been impacted by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). A recent announcement declared that meatpacking plants are to remain open during the COVID-19 crisis. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that workers can continue to work if they remain asymptomatic and follow the CDC guidelines and procedures implemented by state and local health officials and professionals.

Outbreaks in the United States

The recent announcement was in response to outbreaks that have been occurring in beef, pork, and poultry operators across America, leaving many with high concerns. It is important to note that workers cannot be exposed through meat handling, but through other means, including:

  • Processing lines
  • High work volume areas
  • Coworkers and supervisors due to the long duration of contact
  • Congested workspaces and limited distance between workers
  • Traveling with coworkers and transportation methods

Protection for Meatpacking Workers

Workers must follow strict procedures to prevent a possible COVID-19 outbreak. Safety precautions must include:

  • Cleaning meatpacking and processing tools
  • Screening workers before they enter the building
  • Using personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Social distancing

Wearing cloth face coverings is recommended by the CDC. It is not considered a substitute for PPE. The CDC also recommends installing physical barriers in the workplace, but it is not required. Additionally, a control plan should be enforced.

What is a Control Plan?

A control plan is meant to assess safety effectiveness and to eliminate hazards. A control plan should consist of:

  • Coordinators: Workers should recognize who is a coordinator. The coordinator enforces guidelines to address COVID-19 concerns.
  • Infection control: Safety plans should be in place before workers enter the building.
  • Education and training: It is important to keep workers updated, properly trained, and informed of guidelines and about the virus itself.
  • Worksite assessments: Evaluating and eliminating hazards is crucial to prevent infection.
  • Workstations and handwashing stations: If necessary, barriers should be installed. Handwashing stations should be prevalent in the workplace, and cleaning should be a focal point.
  • Ventilation: If possible, proper ventilation should be incorporated throughout workspaces.
  • Management of sick workers: Suspected sick workers should immediately be isolated and sent home. An assessment should be documented, such as interactions with other workers and work tools.

Other necessary guidelines are implemented to ensure every worker is safe. It is important to discuss safety rules and concerns with your employer.

Workers’ Rights

Workers should be aware of COVID-19 symptoms. To determine if the Coronavirus classifies as a workplace injury or an occupational illness, workers should discuss Workers’ Compensation benefits with an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer and their employer. If workers are concerned about their safety, employers cannot retaliate. If a worker is facing retaliation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages workers to file a complaint with them as soon as possible due to time limitations. If your employer does not comply with your concerns and you face retaliation, even after a complaint is filed, it is also beneficial to contact a lawyer immediately.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Meatpacking Plant Workers

During the pandemic, all workers are at risk. If you fear for your safety or fear your employer will retaliate, contact one of our Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton immediately. We will confidently review your case and address your concerns. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-556-4LAW (4529). Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.