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Minnesota OSHA Issues Virus Guidance for Meat Packing Plants

April 20, 2020, 10:16 PM

Minnesota’s state worker safety agency, faced with growing numbers of coronavirus cases linked to meatpacking, issued guidance processing plants should follow.

The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommended Monday that all workers and guests have their temperatures checked, and if the measurement is higher than 99.5 degrees, they should be referred to medical staff to decide if they should be sent home.

The agency also called for operational changes such as adjusting workstations so that a 6-foot spacing is maintained between workers, or if that can’t be consistently maintained, then barriers should be installed. In addition, the state recommended slowing production lines to allow increased space between employees.

Employers also should be flexible in offering paid sick leave and not requiring workers to first obtain a doctor’s order before being approved for leave, the guidance said.

The guidance reminded employers that the state’s Packinghouse Workers Bill of Rights law (Minnesota Statute 179.86) requires “employers to provide workers a safe workplace and the equipment necessary to safely perform their work.”

Meatpacker Temporarily Shuts Plant

Meatpacker JBS USA announced Monday that it would close a pork processing facility in Worthington, Minn., that employs about 2,000 workers after a coronavirus outbreak.

“As we all learn more about coronavirus, it is clear that the disease is far more widespread across the U.S. and in our county than official estimates indicate based on limited testing,” said Bob Krebs, president of JBS USA Pork.

The company will continue to pay its team members during the plant closure.

As of Monday, Minnesota’s state health department reported 143 deaths and 602 hospitalizations out of 2,470 positive cases.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com