A Brazilian court this week ordered JBS SA to impose a 1.5-meter (5-feet) distance between workers in the production line at its beef plant in Pontes e Lacerda to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, prosecutors told Reuters on Thursday.
The ruling comes after an outbreak of COVID-19 at that plant, where at least 145 workers were infected as of July 27, according to labor prosecutors in Mato Grosso, Brazil’s largest farm state. JBS employs 1,035 people there, the statement noted.
“As the contamination occurs through respiratory droplets and also through the air, it is essential to maintain adequate distancing,” the prosecutors’ statement said referring to workstations where people spend at least eight hours in closed quarters with little air ventilation.
JBS declined to comment on the ruling, but has repeatedly defended its health protocols as “robust.”
The company, which has had outbreaks in at least three other plants in Mato Grosso, has said it follows federal rules passed in June that outlines requirements for meatpackers during the pandemic.
In spite of that, prosecutors say the company has not done enough, and have taken the company to court in a bid to improve protection for workers at another three Mato Grosso beef plants in Colíder, Confresa and Araputanga.
All of the cases are pending.
If not possible to enforce the 1.5 meter distance at the Pontes e Lacerda facility, then the company should install physical barriers to protect the workers, the ruling said, according to the prosecutors’ statement.
(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
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