HIGH RIVER, ALBERTA – Cargill Protein, a division of Cargill, plans to reopen the company’s High River, Alberta, beef processing plant on May 4. The company implemented safety measures to respond to community-wide impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to an April 29 update from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, 821 cases of the virus have been confirmed at the Cargill plant. She said there were also 276 workers and contractors from the JBS beef plant in Brooks who tested positive. Total confirmed cases in Alberta were 5,165 as of April 29 and 87 deaths. 

With the support of Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS), Cargill will open the plant with one shift. Cargill is asking all employees who are eligible to return to work in the harvest department to report to work.

To enhance worker safety at the facility, the company implemented safety measures to reduce the likelihood of carpooling to reduce potential for transmission in transit, and limited access to the plant to no more than two people per car (sitting in the front and back seat to maintain proper social distance).

Cargill also provided buses that have been retrofitted with protective barriers between the seats to alleviate the need for carpooling from multiple areas.

“It is understood that employees living in the same household will be granted a variance to the carpooling limitation,” the company said.

Cargill also:

  • Worked with OHS through both virtual and in-person tours of the plant so they can see firsthand the work being done to protect and minimize the risk to our employees while on site.
  • Added additional barriers in the bathrooms and reassigned lockers to allow for necessary spacing
  • Conducted extensive COVID-19 sanitation process, including additional cleaning in the parts of our facility that have been closed for 21-days
  • Continued to focus on education and awareness of social distancing inside and outside of work. Including not sharing food during meals. 

“In partnership with health, regulatory officials and after taking actions suggested by the local union, we have made the decision to reopen our facility in High River, following a 14-day idle,” Cargill Protein said.   

“We look forward to welcoming our employees back and are focused on our ongoing commitment to safety. We know being an essential worker is challenging and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers and products for our customers’ shelves. 

“We have been working in lockstep with AHS since early March to lead on the implementation of proactive safety measures within the facility. Over the last 14 days, we have taken several additional actions to manage COVID-19 and make our facility an even safer place for our employees to work. We’ve been in regular communication with the union, AHS and OHS and have welcomed them for site visits which served to validate the enhanced safety measures in our facility.  

“We care about our employees and this community because we live and work here. Our hearts are with our friends and colleagues who have been impacted by the virus. We will continue to put people first as and do the right thing as we navigate this difficult time together.”