While there’s no question the incident at our Springdale, Ark. location in June 2011 was unfortunate, we acted responsibly in addressing it. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study fails to report the corrective actions we’ve already taken to prevent situations like this from happening again and how we’ve worked with affected employees to make sure they received any needed follow-up care.
Since mid-2011, we’ve put additional controls in place to limit access to chemicals in the plant and we’ve continued to emphasize training for those authorized to handle such chemicals. We believe these steps already address the recommendations NIOSH is now making on chemical management.
The NIOSH study incorrectly identifies the employee who accidentally mixed the chemicals as being Spanish-speaking. The worker responsible is not Hispanic and his primary language is English. In addition, this employee had previously received hazardous chemical training.
Our plant has had an emergency action plan – with evacuation procedures – in place for years that specifically addresses release situations like the one, and it worked effectively during the 2011 incident. While we do have a diverse workforce at this plant, we work hard to communicate with our team members, providing interpreters for those who may not be fluent in English. The plant has a safety committee that involves management and hourly team members to make sure they understand safety-related matters.
Immediately after the accident in 2011, we had Tyson nurses and chaplains stationed at local hospitals to provide support for the workers and their families. We also opened a temporary medical clinic at the Berry Street plant, which was staffed for two weeks to provide follow-up evaluations for affected team members. We also held a meeting with affected workers to give them information about the health effects of chlorine exposure. Tyson chaplains later provided numerous ‘Critical Incident Stress’ debriefing sessions to affected employees.
Most of the affected team members were back on the job within a few days after the incident. About ten were off work for two weeks and two were off for six weeks. After the incident, we continued to send team members to other medical providers as requested by the primary physician, and we had an outside group offer respiratory testing (Pulmonary Function Tests) to the workers. To our knowledge, today only one of the affected team members continues to be treated for respiratory symptoms.