COVID-19: Policy and measures

COVID-19: Update 17 September 2020

COVID-19 measures

Vion has always adopted strict measures when it comes to helping prevent the spread of the virus. These rules are always in line with the guidelines from the GGD and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The statistics show that the number of corona cases is decreasing, as is the number of people who show symptoms of the disease at the entrance. Any new insights in connection with hygiene, ventilation and virus control within our production areas are immediately implemented into actual measures on the workfloor.

China

China has lifted the import ban on pork from Vion Groenlo and Vion Boxtel with effect from 17 September 2020. This means that Vion has regained the recognition to export to China.

John de Jonge, COO Vion Pork, is very pleased with this good news. “It is important for Vion to have regained access to the Chinese market. Vion’s exports to Asia account for a substantial proportion of its total sales volume and a major part of these exports is destined for China. Sales to China are now being resumed, which is important in order to achieve optimised carcass yield of porkers. Having a worldwide complementary sales portfolio is essential, also given the situation in the German market, where the ASF virus is causing a lot of uncertainty and sales of pigs are under pressure.

 

COVID-19 RI&E

An In-Depth COVID-19 Risk Inventory & Evaluation (RIE) has now been conducted at all Vion locations, and been assessed.

 

Employee COVID-19 tests on return from holiday (orange zones)

The holiday period is almost over for many of our employees. A number of our employees and flex workers have returned after their holidays from an area with orange travel advice, sometimes to visit family members.

We have urged our employees and temporary employment agencies to follow the RIVM guidelines on quarantine when returning from an orange area. We have also drawn up a procedure to test employees who have been in orange zones. This means that they will undergo COVID-19 tests on arriving in the Netherlands, before returning to work. In line with RIVM guidelines, they may only return to work when the test result is negative. If the test gives a positive result, the standard GGD process will follow with quarantine. This is how we are giving our employees the opportunity to go into quarantine or to be tested after visiting an orange zone.

In addition to these measures, we have been carrying out health checks on everyone arriving at all Vion locations in the Netherlands since June. Every employee, visitor and controller receives a brief questionnaire about their own health and well-being. Any Vion employee with even mild symptoms that could indicate a COVID-19 infection must not go to work. Employees are tested for COVID-19 if this appears relevant after completing the health form and answering the questionnaire. In case of a positive result, the necessary measures are taken.

Housing

One thing being looked at in this COVID-19 crisis is the quality of the living space for Vion’s flex employees. In late May, Vion set up the Housing Task Force, which randomly inspected the accommodation of flex workers. These inspections have now been completed.

Workforce management was already an important issue at Vion. During the COVID-19 period, however, workforce management is facing additional pressure, as recent developments in the field of flex-work, both in Germany and in the Netherlands, demand attention. In order to make a good preliminary selection, Vion has put together a multidisciplinary Workforce Management project team, with a specific team for the Netherlands and Germany. The task of these teams is to develop a long-term vision, in addition to urgent matters. Vion will continue to look at this issue in this way regularly in the future.

Vion has created posters to give flex workers in group accommodation even better information about what they can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These posters, which include information about what to do if someone is taken ill in the accommodation, have been sent to the employment agencies, who will make sure that the posters are hung up in the houses.

 

Transport and employees

In late May, Vion implemented extra measures to transport employees, including the use of coaches. The measures were relaxed from 1 July, and employees were able to use their normal means of transport again: minibuses and cars. A face mask and health check remain mandatory for those using transport.

Vion Suppliers

Due to our introduction of additional corona rules such as health measures and disinfection procedures after each shift, Vion is now producing less. This will continue for the time being. This will be taken into account in the planning and suppliers will be kept up-to-date.

Environmental monitoring

A study in collaboration with the IRAS and EUR is ongoing about the possible presence of the coronavirus in production rooms. This comprises surface, contact and air samples in the meat processing rooms. The initial results show that 94% of all samples studied do not contain the virus. In the 6% of the samples that were positive, very low virus contents were found.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers


How does Vion explain the high percentage of infected employees?

  • The RIVM indicates that the virus is spread at home in most cases.
  • The exact cause is being studied in collaboration with the GGD and Erasmus University.
  • We continuously tighten our measures at all locations based on RIVM regulations and insights from other authorities, such as the GGD and Inspectorate SZW.
  • Measures have been taken in the workplace, in the home situation and during the transport of employees to prevent infection as much as possible.

The following policy applies to employees after their individual test results have been made known:

  • People who test negative are permitted to work, provided they have not shown any symptoms for 24 hours;
  • People who test positive and show symptoms must stay in isolation at home until they have not shown any symptoms for 24 hours; they may only return to work if at least seven days have passed since the test result;
  • People who test positive and do not show any symptoms must stay in home isolation for 72 hours. If symptoms develop within this period, the policy from the previous point will be initiated.

Didn’t Vion take measures far too late? How come?

  • Vion already implemented an initial set of measures as soon as the first signs of COVID-19 infection were seen in China and Bavaria, in mid-February.
  • In March and May, we implemented additional measures, always in line with the guidelines provided by RIVM, GGD, NVWA and Inspectorate SZW.

Is it possible to keep 1.5 metres apart in abattoirs?

  • Vion adheres to RIVM regulations at all its locations. In places where it is difficult to keep 1.5 metres apart, we have installed screens. In some situations, employees wear face masks.
  • Compliance with the rules is closely monitored.

Does Vion consider it sensible for employees to live together in small communities?

  • When there is no corona, this way of living together does not pose a risk. Everyone has their privacy and there are communal facilities. Currently, larger communal spaces are a point of concern because of the risk of infection.
  • We are working actively to adjust the housing of our employees to the situation. Where possible, larger housing facilities are divided into smaller units. We do this in consultation with the municipalities in which we are active.

 How is communial transport arranged?

The rules for the transport of people have been tightened according to the RIVM 1.5-metre social distancing guidelines for transport. Employees use face masks in communal transport. Those using transport must undergo a health check.

How is it possible that so many minibuses with too many employees were previously stopped by the police in Apeldoorn?

  • We have continually taken measures in February, March and May. The RIVM, GGD and Inspectorate SZW ensured this. The same applies to transport.
  • The lack of clarity mainly concerned the definition of “household” within the agreements that apply to transport. We were also of the opinion that our employees who live together in the same residence belonged to a single household.
  • According the Apeldoorn police, this is in breach of the restrictions laid down by RIVM.
  • We immediately responded to their appeal. Our employees, temporary employment agencies and drivers have been given clear instructions to eliminate any ambiguity about transport.
  • This concerns thousands of employees and numerous transport movements. There is no 100% guarantee for the many hundreds of journeys made per day. But we do not tolerate the agreements we make being compromised.

What test policy is in place at Vion’s locations in the Netherlands and Germany?

  • Vion is in favour of preventive and regular testing at all locations in the Netherlands and Germany.
  • Vion has appealed to the GGD and Security Regions to do so.
  • The GGD is currently conducting tests in the meat sector, including at Vion locations.
  • Vion is in favour of testing employees in their home situation wherever possible, as this is where most infections take place, according to RIVM.

Can the virus spread through raw meat?

  • The RIVM and NVWA have established previously that the virus does not spread through (raw) meat.

Can the virus spread through livestock, or living animals?

  • Pigs and cows do not appear to play a role in the spread of the virus. Despite the extensive literature already available in this field, Vion is participating in a study at the request of the OMT (Outbreak Management Team) to investigate this again in pigs. The results of this study are expected in the coming months.

Which locations are currently closed?

On 4 June Vion opened the production site in Groenlo after approval of the security region North and East Gelderland. There are currently no Vion sites closed.

Isn’t this a wake-up call for the entire meat sector? Is the sector healthy?

  • We are proud of our company, of our industry and of the fact that we have the opportunity to ensure the meat supply for our country.
  • This corona crisis makes it clear that we should aspire to continuously improve in areas such as human and animal welfare, working conditions, sustainability, the environment, and the care for each other. Corporate Social Responsibility has been an integral part of our strategy and management for many years.
  • Vion has the ambition to lead the way in the transition of our industry.
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