A rapid-response survey of essential workers in midwestern meatpacking plants: Perspectives on covid-19 response in the workplace

Athena K. Ramos, Abbey Lowe, Jocelyn J. Herstein, Natalia Trinidad, Marcela Carvajal-Suarez, Sophia Quintero, Diana Molina, Shelly Schwedhelm, John J. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The meatpacking industry has faced significant challenges in maintaining a safe and healthy working environment for its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in worker illness and death, temporary closures of facilities, reductions in production capacity, and consequences throughout the supply chain. We sought to explore the concerns and perceptions of COVID-19 among meatpacking workers in the Midwestern part of the U.S. We conducted an online survey of meatpacking workers in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri between May 7 and 25, 2020. A total of 585 workers participated (M = 41.3 years, SD = 10.3). More than 72% of workers believed that they were at “high risk” for contracting COVID-19, but less than one half had been tested (42%). Most workers (83%) reported that their employer had instituted some safety measures, but less than one half reported physical distancing on the line (39%), slowing down the line (34%), additional paid time off (28%), or restructuring of shifts (20%). Enforceable standards are needed in the meatpacking industry to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Culturally and linguistically tailored education, paid sick leave, and restructuring of work can reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission. Transparency on workplace transmission rates is essential to developing strategies to mitigate occupational risks and foster worker trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Health
Volume84
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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