The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has issued COVID safety guidelines for meat plants and other food processing facilities, but has stopped short of making them mandatory.
OSHA’s “Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” updated June 10, asks employers to continue safety measures for “unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers” including distancing, physical barriers, protective equipment, and staggered shifts and breaks whenever possible.
However, it does not require these measures, nor does it require a written hazard analysis and safety plans. These things are mandated for health care facilities under an OSHA standard also announced June 10.
OSHA’s decision not to mandate safety measures for food processing plants has come under fire from critics who note the impact of COVID on the food industry: 77,000 cases and more than 350 deaths, according to the Food & Environment Reporting Network.
“Today’s new COVID workplace safety standard from OSHA represents a broken promise to the millions of American workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants who have gotten sick and died on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said in a statement.