Cargill's High River beef plant to reopen May 4 with a single shift

After a 14-day idle, Cargill’s beef processing plant at High River, Alta., will reopen with one shift, starting May 4. Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS), announced the plans on April 29th.

All employees who are eligible to return to work in the harvest department are being asked to report to work, the company says. In keeping with the extensive focus on safety, Cargill is emphasizing employees should be healthy and not in contact with anyone who has had the COVID-19 virus for 14 days. Further, out of an abundance of caution, employees should continue social distancing in the facility.

Similar to meat packing plants across North America, Cargill has been working to improve the safety measures that were already in place, with some additional measures. These measures include:

  • Reduced carpooling to reduce the potential for transmission in transit
  • Limiting access to the plant to no more than two people per car (sitting in the front and back seat to maintain proper social distance)
  • Provided buses that have been retrofitted with protective barriers between the seats to alleviate the need for carpooling from multiple areas
  • It is understood that employees living in the same household will be granted a variance to the carpooling limitation
  • Working with OHS through both virtual and in-person tours of the plant so they can see firsthand the work being done to protect and minimize the risk to our employees while on-site
  • Adding additional barriers in the bathrooms and reassigned lockers to allow for necessary spacing
  • Conducting an extensive COVID-19 sanitation process, including additional cleaning in the parts of the facility that have been closed for 21-days
  • Continued focus on education and awareness of social distancing inside and outside of work. Including, but not limited to, not sharing food during meals.

Jon Nash, Cargill Protein, North America lead, says in a statement provided to RealAgriculture that “in partnership with health, regulatory officials and after taking actions suggested by the local union, we have decided to reopen our facility in High River, following a 14-day idle.” He continued, “We look forward to welcoming our employees back and are focused on our ongoing commitment to safety. We know being an essential worker is challenging, and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers, and products for our customers’ shelves.

Based on the release provided by Cargill, the plant has been working side-by-side with Alberta Health Services to find solutions.

Nash explains that they have been working in lockstep with AHS since early March to lead on the implementation of proactive safety measures within the facility.

“Over the last 14 days, we have taken several additional actions to manage COVID-19 and make our facility an even safer place for our employees to work. We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS, and OHS and have welcomed them for site visits, which served to validate the enhanced safety measures in our facility.”

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