The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Friday signed a two-year alliance to provide Meat Institute members, the public and other stakeholders with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help protect workers.
During the two-year alliance, participants will work to achieve the following objectives:
• Share information among OSHA personnel and industry safety and health professionals (e.g., via regular teleconferences and online communication tools) regarding potential exposure to COVID-19 and the challenges for exposure control in meat packing and processing facilities.
• Develop information on the recognition of COVID-19 transmission risks and best practices on preventing such transmission, and disseminate these resources (e.g., via print and electronic media, electronic assistance tools, and OSHA and the NAMI websites) to employers and workers in the industry.
• Conduct outreach through joint forums, roundtable discussions, stakeholder meetings, webinars, or other formats on OSHA guidance and NAMI’s good practices or effective approaches for preventing COVID-19 transmission in meat packing and processing facilities.
• Speak, exhibit or appear at OSHA and NAMI conferences, local meetings, and other events regarding good practices and available resources for preventing COVID-19 transmission.
• Encourage NAMI members and other industry stakeholders to build relationships with OSHA’s Regional and Area Offices and State Plans, and to utilize OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program to improve health and safety and prevent COVID-19 transmission in meat packing and processing facilities.
“Through this alliance, we look forward to working with OSHA to continue our work to protect the health and safety of the men and women who work in meat and poultry facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter,” said Meat Institute president and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “These workers are essential to making food for our nation and are a critical part of our rural economies.”
The Washington, D.C.-based North American Meat Institute is a leading voice for the meat and poultry industry. Its members process the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb and poultry, as well as manufacture the equipment and ingredients needed to produce the safest and highest quality meat and poultry products.
“The security of America’s food supply relies on meat processing facilities continuing to operate with a healthy workforce,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Together, OSHA and the North American Meat Institute can help ensure that employers in this critical industry have the tools and information they need to protect workers from the risk of the coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which has been vocal in its criticism of the meatpacking industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, condemned the new agreement on Friday afternoon. The union, which represents 1.3 million workers in meatpacking plants across North America, called the alliance "a shameless corporate giveaway giving the industry even more power to police itself and ignore safety measures essential to protecting meatpacking workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic." UFCW said today that, among its membership, there have already been at least 113 meatpacking worker deaths and over 17,000 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to COVID-19.
Earlier this year, a number of meatpacking plants across the country from such leading brands as Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, JBS USA and Cargill were temporarily closed for sanitation and safety measures due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among employees.
On April 28, President Trump signed an Executive Order providing the authority to ensure the continued supply of beef, pork and poultry to U.S. consumers.
Under the order, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is directed to ensure that America’s meat and poultry processors continue operations uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible. To ensure worker safety, these processors will continue to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
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