A pilot study on spread of Covid-19 in a meat processing plant and the latest inspection reports from abattoirs

A pilot study on the spread of Covid-19 in a meat processing plant found “inadequate ventilation” was playing a key role and that rapid testing of workers as they arrive at work should be considered.

It said one plant – which had been at the centre of an outbreak of coronavirus among workers – had a particular risk from the “re-circulation of chilled air” in areas where meat was being cut and packaged.

The report also said that rapid on-site testing should be looked at as a tool to stop infected workers before they even made it onto the factory floor.

Separately, a series of inspection reports from meat processing plants reveal continuing issues in the industry.

One plant was reported to have temperature screeners at its entrance. However, the temperature limit was incorrectly set at 38 degrees instead of the HSE guideline of 37.5 degrees.

At a number of meat processors, staff were found to be wearing less-effective visors instead of face masks. “Continue to review and adjust as necessary the use of face coverings,” the report advised.

At one plant, face masks worn incorrectly was a “common occurrence” and the plant was told to follow HSE guidelines on wearing of masks.

One report said there were “particular concerns” over layout of a canteen with seating placed close together and no protective screens between tables.

Another was told their plant needed more sanitation points and to ensure better social distancing in the smoking area.

One meat processor was told to confirm a Covid-19 isolation room would be available at the plant and to provide reassurance that the hand sanitiser gel they used contained at least 60% alcohol.

Concerns were also raised at one plant about toilets and locker rooms being too busy. “Set a maximum number of people [for them],” said the report.

Another plant was told it needed to increase the number of Covid-19 safety officers and hold a meeting with supervisors to reinforce the public health measures required.

The report added: “Proof that this has completed to be sent to the inspector.”

Non Covid-19 issues were also flagged with one plant warned about “dirty coverall” clothing strewn around a locker room at the time of an inspection. A major slip hazard was also identified on the slaughter line there and the plant was told to “reduce the quantity of animal fluids” spilling onto the floor.