LINCOLN, NEB. – The Nebraska legislature changed course on July 30 and will now allow a legislative hearing to discuss a bill that would put into place COVID-19 safeguards for meatpacking workers.

Nebraska state Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha proposed in his bill that an employer must maintain a 6-foot radius around and between each worker in all areas of a facility. Vargas said a company could accomplish the distancing by adding physical space between work stations, slowing production speeds, staggering shifts and breaks and/or adjusting shift size.

Initially, state senators blocked Vargas’ request for a hearing. Vargas addressed his fellow legislators on July 29.

Vargas said 5,000 Nebraska meat plant workers had been infected during the pandemic including 223 people being hospitalized and 11 who have died.

“Where feasible, an employer shall reinforce social distancing with the use of plastic barriers in workspaces and common areas,” the bill said. “An employer shall also reconfigure common or congregate spaces to allow for such six-foot social distancing radius, including but not limited to, lunchrooms, break rooms, and locker rooms.”

The legislation also proposed that employers should provide masks and shall make face shields available for free. It also said face masks should be replaced daily and more often as necessary when face masks are damaged.

The proposed bill can be read here.