MIA Protocols to Manage Risk of COVID-19 for Continuation of Meat Processing

At the end of March 2020, as COVID-19 spread globally, the New Zealand meat processing and exporting industry took proactive steps to prevent the spread of the disease at processing plants and protect its people.

The industry’s COVID-19 Alert Level 4 Safety Protocol was developed based on guidance from the World Health Organization, and New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, and advice from the New Zealand Food Safety Science Research Centre. New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), WorkSafe New Zealand, and the New Zealand Meat Workers Union and the New Zealand Public Service Association were also consulted.

All New Zealand meat processors adopted the protocol and registered a COVID-19 Safety Plan with MPI, which audited compliance at each site.

There was a high level of compliance by meat processors and although a limited number of meat process employees tested positive for COVID-19, the infection occurred off-site and there was no workplace transmission.

Compliance with the protocol (especially segregation of employee into teams and strict physical distancing) meant that meat production was significantly reduced, but the industry remained committed to keeping its people safe and to provide assurances to New Zealanders that it was playing its part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

In summary, at Alert Level 4 (the highest level), the following procedures were followed:

    • Recording of workers and establishment of teams
    • Access to essential personnel only
    • Raised awareness of personal hygiene and physical distancing
    • Cleaning/disinfection of high risk areas (areas frequently in physical contact with workers) and medium risk areas
    • Transport to/from work strictly controlled
    • Physical distancing at work: all sites strived for distancing of two metres at all times. Where unavoidable, work stations were spaced between one and two metres were permitted with PPE. Controls within two metres included face masks or perspex screens. Work stations spaced less than a metre apart were not permitted.
    • Avoidance of large numbers of people in the same place
    • Clear sickness leave protocols to ensure workers with COVID-19 consistent symptoms stayed at home and self-isolated and rapid contract tracing was enabled on site
    • Identification and recording of higher-risk workers (those who are over 70, and/or have compromised immunity). This group was offered the choice of leave.

Protocols for Alerts Level 3 and 2 were also produced for the industry to reflect the relevant government guidance.

Under Alert Level 1 (the current state in New Zealand) there are no protocols, but the basic guidance for processors is:

    • Sick workers must stay home.
    • Workers with cold or flu symptoms must call their doctor or Healthline and make sure they get tested
    • Workers told by health authorities to self-isolate must do so immediately
    • Encourage workers to wash hands regularly
    • Encourage workers to sneeze and cough into an elbow
    • Regularly clean/disinfect shared/communal surfaces
    • Keep track of where workers been and which teams they work in to help contact tracing, if needed
    • Businesses can help people keep track of their movements by displaying the Ministry of Health’s QR Code for contact tracing.

You can download the protocols here:

Alert Level 4 MIA ProtocolMPI's acknowledgement of the Alert Level 4 MIA Protocol can be downloaded here.

Alert Level 3 MIA Protocol

Alert Level 2 MIA Protocol