FSIS implements mask policy to protect inspectors

August 12, 2021

On August 4, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) announced that to further protect their inspection program personnel (IPP) from the highly contagious Delta variant, they expect regulated establishments in areas of “substantial” or “high” transmission to follow updated guidance from the CDC. Effective August 9, employees and contractors are expected to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when IPP are present, if the plant is located in an area of “substantial” or “high” community COVID-19 transmission. Managers and employees are to use the CDC COVID Data Tracker, which is updated daily, to determine whether they are located in one of these areas. If the establishment does not meet these expectations, FSIS may take additional measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure to FSIS personnel.

FSIS acknowledges the agency does not have authority to abate hazardous conditions directly for its employees in privately owned facilities. However, since the agency is required to provide employees with safe and healthy working conditions as part of the overall inspection process, it must reduce exposure to hazardous work conditions.  If these conditions are not met, FSIS can take administrative controls and remove employees (including withdrawing inspection program personnel) from unsafe conditions, if necessary for protection.

On July 28, USDA directed all employees to wear a mask in federal buildings, regulated establishments, retail facilities, and government-owned or leased vehicles regardless of vaccination status. Please contact UEP staff if you have any questions.