Covid breaches at meat plants detailed in health and safety reports

Covid breaches at meat plants detailed in health and safety reports

The inspection reports from the Health and Safety Authority detailed a lengthy list of issues at one factory where public health measures were not being followed.

Inspections of meat processing plants found one factory where Covid-19 curtains had been rolled up and removed, and another where animals at a factory had escaped from a holding area.

The inspection reports from the Health and Safety Authority detailed a lengthy list of issues at one factory where public health measures were not being followed.

One report detailed how curtains used to separate workers had been rolled up or removed while masks were being worn incorrectly by some staff.

It also found issues with hearing protection where noise levels above 85 decibels were recorded, but workers were wearing nothing to protect their ears.

Concerns were also raised about railings around a carbon dioxide chamber to “mitigate the risk of falls” while an employee operating a powerful saw was not wearing the correct safety equipment.

At another factory, there had been multiple instances of animals escaping from a ‘crush’ that was in use to control the movement of cattle.

It said the plant needed to review the height of the rails surrounding it, which should be 1.8m in lairage pens and up to 2.1m in sales rings.

The report said: “Consideration should be given to options such as the upward angling of the upper rails, provision of overhead rails and/or hoops to restrict the opportunity to escape.” 

Another meat plant operator was warned that it must ensure that all “reportable accidents” were notified to the Health and Safety Authority.

Forklifts were a problem at another factory with one having a broken seatbelt and another with the seatbelt wrapped around the back of a seat.

The report said: “Ensure that where seatbelts are provided for use by the operators that they are worn. If not already included in documented training, this will need to be addressed.” 

At another meat processing plant, inspectors said mask-wearing and social distancing were well observed in most places on site. 

However, at an entrance lobby and a smoking area, there was evidence of less compliance.

A report from October on one factory flagged risks over the movement of pedestrians and vehicles within the facility.

It said the plant needed to confirm that all employees required to use lifting equipment had enough information and training to do their work safely.

The health and safety inspector also looked for a new risk assessment for a piece of equipment where there was a risk of workers coming in contact with “moving parts”.

Another report flagged a risk assessment in place for deep cleaning operations that took place in a meat processing plant.

It said staff at risk of being exposed to “chemical vapours, fumes or mists” needed to be provided with suitable equipment to protect their airways.

The inspector said the plant needed to ensure staff were protected against “the inhalation of hazardous substances in the workplace air”.

The reports were released by the Health and Safety Authority under FOI legislation.

However, the names and locations of the individual plants have been withheld in a decision-making process that has been upheld by the information commissioner.

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