Employee raises concerns with local manufacturer about COVID precautions

NEOSHO, Mo. – An employee at a local manufacturer says he’s concerned they’re not taking proper Coronavirus precautions. We spoke with him about his concerns, the response from the company, and some information from the Newton County Health Department.

Zach Allred is an employee of Nutra Blend in Neosho. He contacted us following a positive COVID case at the facility, telling us he feels, Nutra Blend isn’t doing enough. “During this whole COVID-19 pandemic, my employer’s not been taking necessary steps like they claim to keep the employees safe, they’re not doing any extra sanitizing, they haven’t been telling employees about possible exposures or positive test results for several days if not over a week.”

Allred says he reached out to local management all the way up to the CEO of the company. “Basically, every time I’ve made complaints they just get disregarded and I get retaliated against in a passive-aggressive manner.”

We reached out to Nutra Blend with Zach’s concerns.

The company sent back a statement saying “Although we cannot discuss the specifics of any particular employee’s performance or conversations with us, we state with the utmost confidence that we have consistently followed a very thoughtful and thorough process when listening to and reviewing this particular employee’s allegations and concerns.”

They also addressed the issues surrounding COVID. In their statement to us, they said “When COVID emerged, we immediately took seriously the recommendations put in place by federal, state and local authorities to ensure that everything we were doing as a critical-sector company was done in a way that protected employees”.

We spoke with Newton County Health Department Administrator Larry Bergner for some more information on how things work with businesses and COVID. “We usually get the information even before the business gets that information.”

Bergner says that’s why, in many cases, the businesses that have a positive case, don’t notify employees right away, because the health department will notify them. Bergner says HIPAA concerns are the other aspect of a business reporting a positive case to employees. “The health department takes the lead on that, the businesses in most cases will lean on the health department to notify employees and work with the employees to isolate.”

And from that, only employees affected are notified, again, due to privacy concerns. Bergner says if you feel at any point your employer isn’t taking proper precautions, or listening to your concerns, you can contact the health department. “We can help intervene, some things we have regulatory oversight of the business and we can intervene that way, other times it’s just us having a conversation with management.”

Nutra Blend added in their statement that they have since implemented site-based temperature checking and screenings, and now offer free COVID testing to those who want to participate.

The complete statement from Nutra Blend is below.

 

Nutra Blend is a long-time business member of the Neosho area community and we are proud of our operations and people. The health, safety and well-being of our employees and the community is our priority, and we take very seriously our responsibility to listen to employees any time they have concerns and bring them to our attention. We also take our responsibilities to comply with applicable laws and manufacturing health and safety requirements seriously and feel confident that we do so. We are consistent with our industry peers when it comes to operating standards and procedures in our plants and facilities.

While we cannot discuss the specifics of any particular employee’s performance or conversations with us, we state with the utmost confidence that we have consistently followed a very thoughtful and thorough process when listening to and reviewing this particular employee’s allegations and concerns.

We do want to clarify that the Plant Reporting Premium bonus the employee mentions was offered beginning March 29 and that recent voluntary COVID testing began as the Neosho area began to see an increase in positive cases.

In regard to the additional COVID protocol-related concerns listed, our initial response remains.

Employee health and safety is always our priority. When COVID emerged, we immediately took seriously the recommendations put in place by federal, state and local authorities to ensure that everything we were doing as a critical-sector company was done in a way that protected employees through actions that reduce the risk of exposure or spread of COVID within our workforce. The steps we have carefully followed have resulted in Nutra Blend not seeing significant outbreaks as compared to the broader community. Where employees have needed time off for COVID-related reasons, we have voluntarily provided two weeks of paid emergency leave to those workers. That leave is available to them as is any paid time off they may have banked as well as any leave available under laws such as FMLA.

For reference and as previously provided, examples of our safety protocols include: using strict zoning procedures to ensure employees maintain physical distance and limit travel across separate areas of the plant; deep cleaning and sanitization protocols that protect against surface transmission of illness and requiring employees to follow hygiene protocols that minimize infection risk including use of PPE and face coverings, temperature checks before coming to work and strong awareness of COVID symptoms; and requiring telework for employee who are able to work from home. Employees also have access to a company hotline staffed by persons trained on COVID screening and contact tracing. Recently we implemented site-based temperature checking and symptom screening and, as mentioned, now offer free COVID testing to those who voluntarily chose to participate. These are just some of the many actions we take every day to protect our workers and community.

We are committed to our employees, their families and our community and are proud of the steps we take to provide a safe workplace. We will continue to do that and will continue to follow new guidance as we receive updates for federal state and local health authorities.

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