Meat Processing and Food Processing Protection Act

By Benjamin Norman


A bill proposed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly seeks to regulate the food processing industry.[1] The bill applies to any employer licensed under the Meat and Poultry Hygiene Law of 1968.[2] The primary sections of the bill set forth requirements for the training provided to employees, rules regarding sick and medical benefits, establishing a facility health and safety committee, and creating a public health emergency plan.[3]

Under the bill, an employer has a duty to provide training in any language of which 5% of the employer’s workforce speaks.[4] The duty to train requires information to be provided to employees on the following: health risks associated with the job, the right to seek medical care for injuries that result from the job, and a summary of their rights under OSHA.[5] Additionally, employers must provide information as to the employee’s rights underSections 4 and 5 of the Act which will be detailed later.[6] All of this should be done during normal working hours while employees are getting paid.[7]

Under the bill, an employee is entitled to seven paid sick days for either their own illnesses or injuries, and also to take care of  an immediate family member’s illness or injury.[8] Part-time employees get five sick days.[9] The Act further requires employers to pay out-of-pocket expenses for costs not covered by insurance plans when an employee needs immediate care while working at the facility.[10]

Section 5 of the Act requires an employer to set up a “joint-labor management facility health and safety committee” that will work to increase safety conditions at the employer’s facility and lower work-related accidents.[11] The committee will include four representatives comprised of two employee representatives and two employer representatives.[12] The employer representatives must be someone who can hire, fire, direct, or control employees.[13] The employee representatives can be anyone that does work for the employer and gets paid compensation.[14] Subsection c lists requirements for how the committee will be formed and states that an employer with multiple facilities will need multiple committees.[15] Subsection d lists the responsibilities the committee will have including representing accident and illness concerns of employees, reviewing the employer’s hazard programs, establish procedures to inspect health and safety hazards, conducting follow up evaluations, investigating injuries that occur, and much more.[16] Subsection e sets meeting requirements including the requirement to meet monthly with a quorum of two-thirds of the representatives needed to be present.[17]

In the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, Section 6 of the bill gives the Department of Labor and Industry the power to create a model infectious disease plan. An employer is free to adopt such model plan or can create their own that exceeds or equals the plan.[18] Section 7 further provides for procedures for maintaining the plan and informing employees of it.[19]

The bill seeks to protect employees in the meat processing industry by providing for training to prevent injuries, benefits, a committee to represent them, and a public emergency response plan to try and prevent illness if another pandemic occurs. Employers in the industry should start thinking about how to comply with the training requirements and other provisions.

[1] H.R. 1874, 2021-2022 Leg., 250th Gen. Assemb. §1-13 (Pa. 2021)

[2] Id. at § 2

[3] Id. at § 3-7

[4] Id. at § 3

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at § 4

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at § 5

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id. at 7

[19] Id.

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