SPRINGDALE, ARK. – After suspending operations for about two weeks at its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork processing subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., announced on May 5 that the facility would resume production on May 7. During the closure employees were tested for the coronavirus (COVID-19) in response to an outbreak at the plant and company officials implemented numerous safeguards to ensure worker safety.
The company hosted a tour of the plant to highlight the precautions, which was attended by county health officials, the county’s sheriff, Waterloo’s mayor, and the head of the local union representing the plant’s 2,800 employees. Employees of the plant were invited to tour the facility on May 6. All returning employees have been tested for the virus and anyone testing positive is required to stay on sick leave until cleared to return to work by health officials.
“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,” said Bob Waters, president of UFCW Local 431. “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.”
Quinten Hart, mayor of Waterloo, added, “People are our number one asset and first priority. I am pleased that Tyson is working on protecting its employees and partnering with the community leaders for the good of all.”
Tony Thompson, sheriff of Black Hawk County, which includes Waterloo, had publicly expressed his concerns about the safety of the community and shared his frustration over Tyson continuing to operate the plant as positive cases mounted leading up to the closure on April 22. After touring the facility, Thompson was optimistic about the results of the improvements made to protect workers.
“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,” Thompson said. “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.”
Precautions implemented at the plant included: deep cleaning and sanitation of the plant; supplying personal protection equipment for all workers; conducting health screenings of all workers as they enter the plant; installing workstation barriers where possible and supplying face shields for workers where barriers could not physically be installed; and assigning social distancing monitors throughout the facility dedicated to ensure social distancing protocols are being followed.
This past week, the company announced its partnership with Matrix Medical Network to provide medical clinical services at its facilities.