Measures to Protect FSIS Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) From COVID-19 Infection
This notice announces that to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for FSIS employees, FSIS will now expect official meat and poultry establishments, egg products plants, and all other facilities where FSIS provides inspection services, such as voluntary inspection service, to follow recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and require their employees or contractors to wear masks when IPP are present, if the establishment is located in a county with “substantial” or “high” community transmission of COVID-19. For the purposes of this notice, official establishments, egg products plants, and all other facilities where inspection is provided are collectively referred to as “establishments.”
A. FSIS is required to maintain an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Program that complies with the OSHA Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), Section 19, Federal Agency Safety Programs and Responsibilities; Executive Order 12196, Occupational Safety and Health Programs for Federal Employees; and 29 CFR 1960, Basic Program Elements for Federal Employees.
B. For FSIS employees working in privately owned establishments, the Agency does not have authority to abate hazardous conditions directly. However, the Agency is required to provide employees with safe and healthy working conditions as part of the overall inspection process. Means used by the Agency to reduce exposure to hazardous work conditions include: administrative controls, providing employees with proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and removing employees (including withdrawing IPP) from unsafe conditions as necessary for protection of the employees.
C. Based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and to reduce the risk of infection with COVID-19, FSIS requires every employee to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in the workplace, regardless of vaccination status. FSIS will now expect establishments to follow the CDC guidance and require employees and contractors to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when IPP are present, if located in an area of “substantial” or “high” community COVID-19 transmission. Managers and employees are to use the CDC COVID Data Tracker website, which is updated daily, to determine whether they are located in one of these areas.
III. AWARENESS MEETING
Upon publication of this notice, IPP are to schedule a meeting with establishment management to inform them of this expectation and document the discussion in a Memorandum of Interview (MOI) as described in FSIS Directive 5010.1, Food Safety Related Topics for Discussion During Weekly Meetings with Establishment Management. In the awareness meeting, the Inspector-In-Charge is to tell establishment management:
- FSIS is required to provide safe and healthy working condition for its employees;
- FSIS expects establishments in areas of “substantial” or “high” community transmission of COVID-19 to follow CDC guidance and ensure their employees and contractors wear masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission when FSIS personnel are present;
- Establishment management can use the CDC COVID Data Tracker website (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker), which is updated daily, to determine whether they are located in one of these areas; and
- If the establishment does not meet these expectations, FSIS may take additional measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure to FSIS personnel.
IV. FSIS SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITY
If FSIS supervisory personnel become aware of an establishment in an area of substantial or high community COVID-19 transmission where establishment employees or contractors are not wearing masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, in accordance with CDC guidance, when IPP are present, they are to:
- Notify establishment management as soon as possible that if the establishment does not follow CDC guidance and ensure that employees and contractors consistently wear masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission when FSIS personnel are present, then FSIS may take additional measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure to FSIS personnel. This should be followed up with a written notification, which may be by e-mail;
- Maintain ongoing communication with IPP regarding mask use by employees at the establishment; and
- Notify the District Manager through supervisory channels of any establishments in areas of “substantial” or “high” community transmission that do not follow CDC guidance and require their employees and contractors to wear masks when IPP are present.
Refer questions regarding this notice through supervisory channels.
Office of Policy and Program Development