Over the past several weeks, SK Food Group has been tackling the biggest challenges our company has ever faced: mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities and offices, protecting the health and well-being of our associates, and ensuring that our products continue to reach our clients and customers safely.
As an essential service, our assembly lines are running and our management and executive teams are working tirelessly to keep SK Food Group ticking. Office staff who can do their jobs remotely are working from home. But for our associates at our production facilities, life looks a bit different as we have adjusted our procedures and daily routines.
The core of our response remains the same. SK Food Group continues to follow all federal, state, local, WHO, FDA, USDA, OSHA and CDC recommendations and guidelines on COVID-19. As our first article on our COVID-19 response explained, our normally stringent food safety and sanitation protocols now include more handwashing, more daily cleaning and sanitation, and careful monitoring by our sanitation tech teams.
Our associates are still working together, but farther apart. On the assembly line, people are being spread apart, sometimes with carts of eggs, ham and cheese positioned as physical barriers. Where we once had 250 people clocking in to start a shift at the same time, we now have much smaller groups arriving at staggered times, using different entrances and spreading out at a safe distance.
When associates arrive at work, they are observed for any signs of respiratory symptoms. Anyone who shows symptoms or says they don’t feel well has their temperature taken, and if they have a fever they are sent home and directed to contact their healthcare provider for evaluation. If they begin experiencing symptoms while at home, they must call the company sick line to report their symptoms and speak with an HR representative about next steps.
SK Food Group’s response team is in close daily contact with our customers, and one of the main questions they have is how we are mitigating the risks of COVID-19, including how we respond if an associate is confirmed positive for the virus. Our team has a clear, step-by-step process in place.
What do we do if an associate is confirmed positive for COVID-19?
An investigation is started immediately to assess the nature and scope of the exposure to other facility employees, working with state and/or local public health authorities every step of the way. After identifying when and where in the facility the employee last worked, we work to identify all other employees who were in close contact (less than 6 feet) with them. This involves speaking with the employee to gather as much information as possible about their movements in the facility, their relationships with other employees, and other family members who may also work for SK Food Group.
We then communicate with employees that we believe may have been exposed to the virus, while keeping the identity of the ill worker confidential. Based on the results of the investigation, our sanitation teams immediately clean and disinfect impacted areas, and management determines whether the facility will be closed or not, and for how long.
Any food produced in or around the positive individual does not need to be disposed of, as food is not recognized as a vector.
With COVID-19, risk levels vary, and we use the FDA, CDC and OSHA Risk Assessment Guidance Documents to determine the risk level for all our associates, ranging from high (living in close contact with a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection) to medium (living in close contact but consistently taking recommended precautions for home care and home isolation) to low risk (being in the same indoor environment for a prolonged period, but not in close contact).
Associates who are considered high or medium risk must not come to work for 14 days. To be eligible to return to work, the associate must test “negative” for COVID-19 twice, 24 hours apart. If they have tested positive for COVID-19, but have not had a second test to determine whether they are still contagious, the employee cannot return to work until they have not had a fever for at least 72 hours, other symptoms have improved, and at least 30 days have passed since the symptoms first appeared.
We at SK Food Group are doing everything in our power to provide a safe and healthy work environment for our employees, and support everyone in our company directly affected by COVID-19. After weeks of ramping up production to build inventory, we decided to close our facilities this past week, giving our employees paid time off to be at home with their families. We restarted our assembly lines on Monday 4/13, alternating production between our different facilities and keeping our products moving out to those who depend on them.
We are all in this together, and as we adapt to this rapidly changing situation, we remain committed to being a “people first” company. The health and well-being of our employees, clients, customers, and suppliers are our top priorities, and we will keep all of you informed of our efforts.