SALISBURY, MD. – In early May, Perdue Farms welcomed officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who were invited to tour its Salisbury, Md., chicken processing facility. CDC officials also toured Perdue plants in Delaware and Virginia. As part of the Salisbury tour, Perdue’s operations management and nurses from the facility’s on-site wellness center met with CDC health experts and demonstrated how the plant’s new safety efforts aligned with guidance from OSHA and the CDC. Plant officials then led a tour of the facility to display the new safety efforts in action and discuss protocols for COVID-19 case data and contact tracing, as well as worker testing.

Following the presentation and tour, the CDC summarized its visit in a memo summarizing the best practices the plant had implemented. The highlights included:
Health and safety:

  • Temperature checking as a requirement to enter the facility;
  • Proper mask wearing;
  • Social distancing where possible, such as restrooms, break rooms, locker rooms, the cafeteria, and offices;
  • And installation of easily cleaned partitions between associates on the production line where adequate social distancing is not possible.

Extensive cleaning measures:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the facility;
  • Automatic sinks in the bathrooms for handwashing;
  • Knee-pedal handwashing station associates are required to use each time they enter the processing floor;
  • Additional staff continuously cleans and sanitizes commonly touched surfaces during the two processing shifts;
  • And an external cleaning contractor thoroughly cleans and disinfects all plant spaces each weekend, except the processing space, which is sanitized by a separate contractor every 24 hours.

Associate and community education:

  • Translating informational and educational materials into the primary languages spoken among the workforce: English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole;
  • Displaying various CDC messages related to COVID-19 on posters and rotated on video monitors in common areas;
  • And hosting virtual Town Hall-style webinars at locations where Perdue has production operations, including Salisbury, to further facilitate an ongoing dialogue regarding COVID-19 with various local community leaders including pastors, healthcare professionals, elected officials, civic organizations, and more, to help reinforce the importance of social distancing, face covering use, and handwashing, as well as to educate about signs, symptoms, and disease transmission at home and in the community when away from work.

"At Perdue, our associates have always been and will always be our first priority. To protect our colleagues, we responded swiftly to the threat of COVID-19 and had already implemented many safety measures following CDC/OSHA interim guidance beginning in early March," said Kevin Dennis, director of operations at the Salisbury facility. "As we continue to seek additional ways to protect our associates during COVID-19, we welcomed the CDC's visit, appreciated their support, and were pleased with their findings that we had already gone above and beyond expectations to protect our associates, including testing everyone at our Salisbury facility on May 7th. While county and state health officials expected these test results to be around 20%, the actual results clearly show our efforts to protect our associates are working, with positive cases in our facility around 4%, which is lower than the rate of cases in the county."

Suggestions provided by the CDC to further bolster Perdue's existing safety efforts included:

  • Conducting periodic worksite assessments to identify COVID-19 risk and prevention strategies;
  • Continuing to provide specific and relevant training to management and associates on infection control, available in the three primary native languages spoken at the facility;
  • Ensuring continuation of proper hand hygiene practices;
  • Removing all fans from processing floor and consulting with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineer to ensure adequate ventilation in work areas;
  • Encouraging single-file movement with six-foot distance between each worker throughout facility, particularly at the main entrance;
  • Discouraging carpooling when possible, and provide guidance on how to minimize risk when carpooling is necessary;
  • And disinfection protocols if an associate becomes ill during work.

The CDC also visited Perdue facilities in Accomac, Va., Milford, Del., and Georgetown, Del. Perdue and the CDC will share similar reports from those facilities once they become available.