Report: 89% of Food Manufacturers Use Social Distancing

April 23, 2020

4 Min Read
Report: 89% of Food Manufacturers Use Social Distancing
A new survey shows that the majority of American food and beverage manufacturers are using social distancing to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Food and beverage manufacturers are scrambling to implement a wide range of measures that are intended to keep production workers healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, including checking workers temperatures and increasing the availability of paid sick time. A new survey of US food and beverage professionals published this month by Clear Seas Research indicates that social distancing is the leading protective action in use to combat the spread of the coronavirus.  

The majority (89%) of respondents in the survey, conducted from April 2-6, said they are using some form of social distancing to keep their employees safe. In contrast, only 50% said they are providing workers with personal protection equipment (PPE).  

Clear Seas’ findings echo statements by major food and beverage companies on the measures they are taking to keep their workers from becoming infected with COVID-19: “We spent countless hours working on social distancing measures, building dividers at a number of workstations and expanding breakrooms by erecting tents to simply give us more room,” Tyson Foods said in a statement this week outlining its COVID-19 safety policies for its facilities. 

General Mills started encouraging its production workers to use social distancing in late March. Agribusiness Cargill also put similar policies in place. An alert published this month by US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists social distancing as one of seven measures manufacturers can take to prevent workers from being exposed to coronavirus. 

Most companies are also working to increase hygiene among staff, according to the results. 83% of food and beverage industry respondents said they are encouraging workers to wash their hands and over three-quarters of the sample said hand sanitizer or antibacterial soaps are provided in their operations. 72% of manufacturers reported cleaning their facilities more often.

While over 70% of food and beverage manufacturers have reduced or eliminated face-to-face meetings and vendor and customer visits to facilities, the data suggests that companies differ on their policies for worker attendance. Less than half of the respondents are allowing (48%) or requiring (48%) their employees to work from home. Only 24% said they are splitting workforce shifts to lower worker density and 23% reported their facilities are operating on reduced schedules. 

With so many headlines about COVID-19-related plant shutdowns in recent weeks, it is perhaps surprising that a mere 16% of food and beverage professionals said they have temporarily closed their facilities.

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