RED DEER, AB – After having been temporarily closed for 14 days, Olymel management with the support of Alberta Health Services (AHS) is announcing the gradual reopening of its hog slaughtering, cutting and boning plant in Red Deer, Alberta. Olymel will continue to work closely with AHS and the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) throughout the entire gradual reopening process.
Reopening can occur because Olymel management and the regulators are satisfied that employees can return to the plant safely. The company will continue to work with AHS and OHS in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Olymel will also ensure that there is a strong collaboration and commitment amongst its workforce to prevent the spread. Olymel management is pleased to confirm that most of the employees who have had COVID-19 since the outbreak began have recovered. Olymel management wishes a speedy and healthy recovery to those who are still affected. For the three of our employees who have unfortunately passed away after testing positive for COVID-19, the company offers its deepest condolences to their families, friends, and coworkers, and remains available to help them through this trying time. Olymel is saddened by anyone who is impacted by COVID-19, whether it be our own employees, their families or our Red Deer community.
SUPPORT FROM ALBERTA HEALTH SERVICES
Olymel took advantage of the plant closure to update and reinforce the many health and safety measures that were already in place at the plant. It worked with the task force that Alberta Health Services specifically formed to support the company in planning a safe gradual reopening. Further to full plant inspections by expert teams from AHS, OHS and Environmental Public Health (EPH) on Monday, March 1, and Wednesday, March 3, AHS made several recommendations aimed at adjusting and reinforcing certain measures that were already in place and gave the green light to gradually resume operations.
Slaughter operations will resume this Thursday, March 4, and cutting room operations, Friday, March 5. The employees that are needed to ensure that the gradual restarting of operations goes smoothly will be recalled in accordance with applicable collective agreement provisions. Since March 3, employee groups have been being recalled to take part in training sessions covering all implemented health measures, adjustments and additions made to some of them, and the action plan developed for reopening. The training sessions also focus on the important role information plays in compliance with all the health measures that are in place at the plant.
Additional staff has already been assigned to monitor and enforce these measures. Social distancing protocols have been further adjusted and enhanced, in particular through the addition of physical space. Health and safety meetings between management and union representatives are scheduled daily.
Alberta Health Services authorities have however specified that the coronavirus is still spreading and that everyone is at risk of contracting it, whether in the community or otherwise. Accordingly, they recommend the utmost vigilance. Although 1,370 employees at the Red Deer plant have been tested since January 1, 2021, AHS experts will be on site when operations resume and will offer rapid testing to anyone who has not tested positive and wishes to be tested.
Olymel plant supply teams are also in contact with Alberta hog farmers to plan the gradual resumption of deliveries. Since the temporary closure of the Red Deer plant, Olymel had made the necessary decisions to manage the flow of pigs from its own farms in order to facilitate a return to normal when operations resumed.
As at all its facilities across the country, Olymel’s Red Deer plant rigorously applies a wide range of health measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The company relies on the cooperation of each employee to remain vigilant and adhere to all health measures in force at the plant, which include reporting symptoms, wearing a mask, complying with the 2-metre distancing rule, and hand washing. Olymel thanks everyone of its workers for the ongoing and anticipated cooperation with these measures and Olymel’s strong commitment to preventing the spread.