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 have been 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 follows a tour of the plant by Black Hawk County health officials, Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson, UFCW Local 431 President Bob Waters and other local business leaders and a subsequent joint company and 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," says 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."
Tyson has partnered with Matrix Medical Network, a leading medical clinical services company, to establish an onsite 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," says Waters. "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."
"It is my sincere hope that the Tyson Waterloo operations can once again find its footing and become a better, even more productive part of our Black Hawk County business community," says Thompson. "The amount of obvious energy put into addressing this plant's workspace and personal protective deficiencies became clear during our recent visit and I look forward to continuing to monitor and work with local plant leadership to ensure a cooperative effort moving forward."
"People are our number one asset and first priority," says Mayor Hart. "I am pleased that Tyson is working on protecting its employees and partnering with the community leaders for the good of all."
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 clean 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 and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance. These include:
- Wellness health screening of all team members each time they arrive at the facility, checking for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath in addition to continuing use of the infrared thermometers to check temperature.
- The supply of protective facial coverings to every team member and requiring they are worn.
- The required use of face shields for team members where workstation barriers cannot physically be implemented.
- Additional dedicated social distance monitors stationed throughout the facility during all shifts to help ensure team members adhere to safety protocols and social distancing requirements.
The company has doubled its "thank you" bonus for its frontline workers. Team members who cannot come to work because of illness or childcare issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify. Tyson Foods 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.