A number of increased prevention measures have been introduced.
Carroll Cuisine in Tullamore will re-open on a phased basis over the next seven days.
The announcement follows negative coronavirus test results by 210 employees based at the plant.
Previously, nine members of staff had tested positive.
11 measures aimed at preventing further cases are being introduced, including staggered working and break times, while workers will also operate in pods.
Chief Operating Officer of Carroll Cuisine, John Comerford says it's natural to have concerns about damage done to their brand by an outbreak of covid-19 at their facility.
The HSE and the HSA has approved their plan to re-open on a phased basis.
He adds that Carroll's will look after any employee who shows symptoms of Covid-19 and insists they will not be left out of pocket if they cannot work.
Mr. Comerford says asymptomatic cases are a big problem for business owners:
Carroll's Cuisine has issued the following statement:
The Health Service Executive and the Health and Safety Authority have reviewed and approved the extensive measures we have in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. They have confirmed to us that we have all necessary processes in place to allow for a reopening of our facility. This comes after we temporarily suspended our operations last Monday while we waited for the results of Coronavirus tests by the HSE. All of these tests came back negative.
The tests provide confidence that the actions we’re taking are effective. Taking into account the approval we have received, and the rigorous prevention measures we have in place, we will begin carefully and gradually resuming operations on a phased basis over the coming week.
When the public health crisis began in March, we implemented stringent hygiene, health and safety measures to protect our employees and to help prevent the spread of the virus, as well as all other hygiene, health and safety measures which we have in place on a constant basis.
The HSE tested 210 of our colleagues last Sunday including staff who work in our food processing operations. The results of these tests proved 100% negative for Coronavirus. Our remaining workforce aren’t based at our Tullamore facility, or haven’t attended the facility since people began working from home, resulting in no requirement for precautionary testing unless any symptoms are identified. We currently employ 330 people in total.
When the three midland counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly recently went into regional lockdown, over 500 individuals in Offaly had tested positive for the virus. Only 9 of those 500+ people are employees of Carroll’s.
Throughout the recent national lockdown, we stayed open as an essential food industry supply operation, throughout that time, ensuring the availability of our foods for retailers and consumers nationwide. We successfully kept Covid out of our business for several months.
We recorded a very first case of Coronavirus among our workforce after a colleague consulted their GP and subsequently tested positive on 31st July. Acting responsibly, they had told us about their symptoms straight away when they first noticed them and had self-isolated. In line with our advance contingency planning, we immediately arranged to test everyone using an independent laboratory service.
Including our initial staff member, a total of 9 employees to date (2.48% of our workforce) had positive tests for COVID-19 and are self-isolating. We also identified colleagues who were working alongside these colleagues and they also went into self-isolation.
We have been very proactive to ensure the safety of our staff and our wider communities. All of our people who were able to work from home did so from 11th March, before the Government called for businesses to implement this new way of working.
In relation to our food processing operations, the following measures are in place:
- Staff have been segregated into separate production pods and teams, in order to limit any potential for positive tests
- Staggered working hours to reduce the number of staff required on site at any given time
- Break times are staggered to reduce engagement and crowding in common spaces
- Additional canteen facilities have been created for separation and social distancing
- Additional PPE has been introduced for staff such as face masks and face shields
- Regular deep cleaning of our facilities in addition to all other ongoing, comprehensive hygiene, health and safety practices
- Additional hand sanitation facilities introduced
- Multilingual education campaign for colleagues who speak another EU language
- Established a multi-disciplinary COVID-19 team to continue to research and review best practices
- Development of our company app to allow colleagues to test and declare their health status before coming to work
- All colleagues have been issued with an electronic thermometer and check-in on our app before they can come on-site, to ensure no symptoms.
- At all times, the facility operates to the highest standards of safety and quality
We welcome proposals for a constantly recurring testing programme and we will participate fully in any such initiatives. This will further help us all to monitor, suppress and prevent the virus, keep people safe and protect employment while we provide an essential service.
Management and all staff are engaged on a constant basis in dealing with this matter. Our own specific situation has not escalated further, however this also means we are doubling and redoubling our efforts to stop any spread of the virus and staying constantly vigilant.
Given the nature of the Coronavirus, we are acutely aware that a positive result can occur at any time, as we have a large workforce, but we have shown that the strong and rigorous procedures we have in place do work to contain the spread, and this will allow us to continue working in a safe manner in the event of positive results being found.
We will continue to adhere fully to HSA and HSE guidelines to ensure we protect our valued colleagues and the wider community. Only colleagues who have tested negative for the virus will be allowed access to our Tullamore facility. If any colleagues test positive for the virus at any later date, the full team they work with will go into quarantine. As all teams are segregated, this will allow our facility to continue operating as only the team or teams affected would need to isolate.
We are very grateful to all our staff, our customers and our communities where we know there are extremely difficult circumstances for everyone. We will do everything in our power to continue operating in the safest possible manner throughout this ongoing pandemic.