FSIS Announces Measures to Protect Inspection Program Personnel From COVID-19 Infection

FSIS announced today that it is implanting additional measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection to its inspection program personnel (IPP).

Effective Monday, August 9, 2021, all federally regulated establishments are expected to wear masks when IPP are present, if located in “an area of substantial or high community COVID-19 transmission.” The Agency said these changes are based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The following measures are effective Monday, August 9, 2021:

  • Federally regulated establishments are expected to follow the latest CDC guidance. Establishment employees and contractors are expected to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when IPP are present, if located in an area of “substantial” or “high” community COVID-19 transmission. Managers and employees are to use the CDC COVID Data Tracker, which is updated daily, to determine whether they are in one of these areas.

  • Establishments are expected to follow the CDC guidance by Monday, August 9, 2021. If the establishment does not meet these expectations, FSIS may take additional measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure to FSIS personnel.

These measures come as a response to a national increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly transmissible Delta variant and align with FSIS Directive 4791.5 Hazard Communication Program.

For FSIS employees working in privately owned establishments, the Agency does not have authority to abate hazardous conditions directly. However, the Agency is required to provide employees with safe and healthy working conditions as part of the overall inspection process. Means used by the Agency to reduce exposure to hazardous work conditions include administrative controls and removing employees (including withdrawing inspection program personnel (IPP)) from unsafe conditions as necessary for protection.

On July 28, 2021, USDA directed all employees to wear a mask in federal buildings, regulated establishments, retail facilities, and government owned or leased vehicles regardless of vaccination status. FSIS said the mask requirement is needed due to the highly dispersed nature of its workforce.