Recent news about an employee testing positive for COVID-19 has prompted the Canadian Federal Inspection Agency (CFIA) to release update guidance about preventing and responding to COVID-19 in meat slaughter and processing establishments.
The guidance document, titled “Guidance to Meat Slaughter and Processing Establishments on Prevention and Response to Suspect and Confirmed COVID-19 Plant Employees”, was released March 31, 2020, and takes effect immediately.
This update is intended to provide a summary of that guidance document, but for anyone who is looking to review it in its entirety, please follow this link: https://inspection.gc.ca/eng/1585620151816/1585620617343
The guidance document advises us that the CFIA expects every establishment to follow the guidelines provided by their local health authorities, as well as those provided (here) by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in regards to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Furthermore, it requires that every establishment provide COVID-19 prevention documentation clearly outlining the preventative measures in put in place to mitigate the risk of infection. In addition to this documentation is a requirement to also outline the establishment’s response to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.
These documents should:
- Describe the measures that have been put in place to prevent or minimize the risk of exposure to the pathogen COVID-19
- Examples include:
- Policy & Procedure documents
- Sanitation practices/schedules/locations
- The communicated approach concerning physical/social distancing
- Self/company health assessment protocols/practices and description of screening methods in place, or any supporting procedural documents
- Reporting policy for the staff or their colleagues to report illness and corresponding notification to the CFIA in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis
- Describe the specific response/action plans that will be implemented in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis of one of the establishment’s employees
These documents will be inspected by the CFIA to ensure proper policies and procedures are being carried out and that the CFIA maintains proper oversight.
Policies & Procedures for Operators
Operators are required to abide by the following procedures:
- The CFIA must be notified when:
- A public health request is made for COVID-19 testing of a plant employee
- A plant employee tests positive for COVID-19
- A request for information (RFI) from the CFIA will follow in response to the notification. This RFI will request the following information:
- The date of diagnosis
- The date of symptom onset
- The location(s) which the employee performed their roles or was present (e.g. lunch room, washrooms, etc.), or traveled through (stairwells, hallways, etc.)
- Any information relevant to identifying individuals who may have come into contact with the COVID-19 positive employee
- The CFIA will notify public health authorities and request their assistance in determining risk to employees of both the plant and the CFIA
- The CFIA will require the operator to provide information to support a risk assessment for those CFIA employees, if applicable
- The CFIA will consult with local health authorities to conduct a site visit to determine the impacts on staff due to COVID-19 exposure
- In addition to the local health authority and establishment representative, the CFIA will assemble a team to provide advice to the Area OSH Coordinator/Advisor as well as to CFIA management
- A site visit will be performed – this visit should be viewed as an inspection to assess the situation and the risks involved
- Operators should consult with suppliers, and Agriculture Canada & Agri-Food Canada regarding receipt of live animals should production be affected
- CFIA and the local health authorities will assess the exposure risk to plant and CFIA employees and if necessary, order COVID-19 testing or self-quarantine measures
- Based on exposure risk, some CFIA employees with negligible risks may be cleared to work
- An assessment of the operator’s mitigation measures against COVID-19 will be evaluated. A determination of the return to work date will be made based on results gathered following the RFI
Whether you are an operator of a meat slaughter or processing facility or are concerned about how to handle COVID-19 properly in any food processing facility, dicentra Food Safety, and Quality Services are here to help you. Stay tuned for more updates.