A safety protocol for workers in meat plants has been agreed by union SIPTU and Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

The aim is to suppress COVID-19 infections at plants.

The protocol includes a commitment to maintaining serial testing of meat plant workforces, ongoing health screening, temperature testing, the mandatory use of appropriate personal protective equipment and stringent hygiene controls.

The two organisations also agreed to hold joint employer-worker forums to ensure full compliance with these measures and address other issues related to the COVID-19 crisis.

SIPTU’s manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis said it was the only national charter agreed by a union in Ireland with employers to cover safety procedures and processes aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19 infection.

Ennis added that serial testing of workforces in the industry must be maintained if we are to minimise the occurrence of outbreaks at processing plants.”

Serial testing

The HSE serial testing programme continues in meat processing facilities nationwide.

MII described the results as very encouraging and that they point to a low level of incidence of the virus.

“Latest information from the HSE on the comprehensive testing regime is that the positivity rate is 0.3%,” MII said in a statement.

“This demonstrates that the comprehensive protocols and mitigation measures in place in processing facilities across the country are working. No other industrial work setting has had such a comprehensive screening test programme in place.”

We are pleased to have worked with SIPTU to agree this set of safety protocols

MII director Cormac Healy said: “We are pleased to have worked with SIPTU to agree this set of safety protocols to protect employees in our sector.

"It formalises a wide range of measures that have already been put in place and will provide reassurance that the industry is 100% committed to taking all appropriate steps to mitigate the risk posed by COVID-19."

He added: “The sharp reduction in clusters in meat plants and the low rate of positive test incidence shown by the ongoing serial testing is indicative that the efforts being made are working.

“However, there is no room for complacency. Given the wider community trends in COVID-19 cases, continued vigilance and rigorous enforcement of mitigation measures and testing, track and trace is essential.”

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