COVID fears as abattoir staff ‘forced to re-use gloves’
A Queensland abattoir has fended off claims it is only supplying select staff with one set of gloves during shifts, weeks after abattoirs in Victoria recorded more than 300 cases of coronavirus.
Teys Australia staff, who fear being named, said they were forced to use the same disposable gloves for an entire eight-hour shift with bosses telling them to wash their gloves regularly.
They also said some workers were angry they were not given any gloves and were told to regularly use hand wash instead.
The claims followed more than 300 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria which have been linked directly to outbreaks in meat processing plants.
Teys said disposable gloves were given to all who needed them and were distributed in line with all state and federal government regulations and Workplace Health and Safety risk assessments.
"All other workers have access to hand wash stations and are required, at a minimum, to fully wash hands using soap at breaks," a Teys spokesman said.
"Anyone who genuinely needs gloves has them provided and will continue to get them. Guaranteed.
"These procedures have been accepted by all state and federal regulators who have responsibility for COVID-19 risk mitigation plans."
Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union official Jimmy Cottrell-Dormer slammed the practise and said workers at Teys Beenleigh were "jumpy" because plants in Victoria had been labelled as "superspreaders" of COVID-19.
Mr Cottrell-Dormer said disposable gloves should be replaced regularly and should not be washed.
"Unless they are designed to be washed, they should be thrown away after use and it is inappropriate to wear single-use gloves for an entire eight-hour shift," he said.
"This needs to be addressed and should be investigated to make sure there is no breach of regulations.
"Gloves are not mandatory across all parts of the plant because they can also be responsible for the direct spread of germs when not used appropriately.
"The union believes if staff were appropriately consulted about wearing gloves, which is a legal obligation, those concerns may have been alleviated."
Staff who were forced to wear the disposable gloves said they would take the issue further and lobby state politicians.
"Washing the gloves is exposing us to the risk of contamination from other production lines within the plant which is a concern for us and our families.
Teys COVID measures include protective head coverings for some staff, temperature checks, using CCTV footage to trace close contact workers, outdoor lunch rooms to allow social distancing and multilingual education on COVID-19.
Originally published as COVID fears as abattoir staff 'forced to re-use gloves'