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OHS opens investigations at JBS and Cargill plants following worker's death
CALGARY -- Occupational Health and Safety has opened two investigations at Alberta’s biggest meat processing plants.
The Cargill plant in High River, which has been shuttered, and the JBS facility in Brooks, are said to be the cause of 17 per cent of the outbreaks in the province.
"These investigations are looking at the circumstances around potential exposures of workers at these facilities to the COVID-19 disease," said Shawn Macleod, deputy minister of labour.
"This will include any issues of non-compliance that may have affected the health and safety of workers at the facility."
A 68-year-old woman and Cargill employee died Sunday after contracting the virus, officials reported Monday.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, said the province is investigating two additional deaths in Brooks, one being a JBS employee.
She said it's unsure how he died and whether it was COVID-19 related.
"However that worker was not known to be a case of COVID, so it's not clear what the cause of death was, and there is an investigation that's underway," said Hinshaw.
Cargill took right measures: Employee
A 28-year employee of Cargill said the company took all the right measures in protecting its staff and said the outbreak is from employees not taking the proper precautions.
"There were some people who weren’t following distancing like Cargill implemented," said Danuta Kroeker.
"As a quality control technician, my job is to make sure people are washing their hands and that was an issue for some people too."
Harold Preuss has worked at the plant for more than five years.
"They were bringing in rules slowly as time was going on to safen things up and ask everybody questions, with masks and dividing curtains for retain areas," said Preuss.
Living in close quarters
The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) helps hundreds of new Canadians immerse into life in Alberta.
The society said it deals with thousands of people who work or have connections to both plants.
It said the massive spread is due to employees living in close quarters with others.
"Obviously it is very normal for them to try to minimize the cost of living in Canada and one of them is sharing carpooling, sharing accommodations and that has been a norm even before COVID-19," said Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the CCIS.
Hinshaw confirmed Cargill has 440 employees who have been infected with the virus, with 580 people with links to the plant.
Ninety-six workers are now infected in Brooks at the JBS facility, which continues to operate on one shift.