Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., will resume limited production at its Waterloo, Iowa, facility on May 7. Team members were invited to tour the facility Wednesday to view the enhanced safety precautions and protective social distancing measures installed throughout the plant.
The reopening of the facility, which has the capacity to process 19,500 hogs per day, follows a tour of the plant by Black Hawk County, Iowa, health officials, Waterloo mayor Quinten Hart, Black Hawk County sheriff Tony Thompson, UFCW Local 431 president Bob Waters and other local business leaders and a subsequent joint company/community leader review of the company’s protocol to safely resume operations. The pork processing facility temporarily suspended harvest operations on April 22 to test its team members for COVID-19.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, their loved ones and our communities,” said Tom Hart, plant manager of Tyson’s Waterloo facility. “We appreciate the collaboration and support of Black Hawk County health officials, mayor Hart and sheriff Thompson as we tested team members and took proactive steps to complement our existing prevention efforts, working with epidemiologists and other experts.”
Matrix Medical Network will also have an on-site clinic to provide team members with enhanced care. This includes diagnostic testing for COVID-19, daily clinical screenings, access to nurse practitioners and employee education and support for personal health goals or concerns.
“I had the chance to tour the Tyson plant in Waterloo and see the additional steps taken to keep the workers safe during these trying and unknown times,” UFCW Local 431 president Bob Waters said. “Tyson has gone above and beyond to keep their employees safe, and I support the reopening of the facility. This pork plant and all of the measures they’ve put in place are an example of how to effectively set up a safe work environment for the employees.”
All team members returning to work have been tested for COVID-19, and any team member who has tested positive will remain on sick leave until released by health officials to return to work. Team members who have not been tested will be unable to return to work, and all new hires will be tested prior to starting work.
While the plant was idle, the company performed an additional deep cleaning and sanitization of the entire facility. Returning team members will see the changes made to promote social distancing and protective measures that meet or exceed Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Occupational Safety & Health Administration guidance, including wellness health screenings, checking for symptom, infrared thermometers temperature checking and supplying protective facial coverings to be worn by everyone.
Face shields will be required for team members where workstation barriers cannot physically be implemented, and social distance monitors will be stationed throughout the facility during all shifts to help ensure that team members adhere to safety protocols and social distancing requirements.
Tyson said it also doubled its “thank you” bonus for its frontline workers. Team members who cannot come to work because of illness or child care issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify. The company has also increased short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30 to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick.