Meat Industry Ireland has agreed safety protocols with the SIPTU trade union that will deal with the risks of Covid-19 in the sector.

Both sides welcomed the development, saying the measure in place would help protect workers in the sector.

There have been more than 1,500 cases of the virus confirmed in the sector since the pandemic began and some facilities were forced to close temporarily as a result of the virus.

Under the protocols agreed, serial testing of the workforce is to continue. Temperature testing of workers on arrival at work will also continue.

The use of Personal Protective Equipment by workers will be mandatory in some circumstances under the new agreement.

It was also agreed today that joint employer/worker forums will be established to ensure full compliance with precautionary measures agreed and adherence to the protocols.

The agreement in the meat industry is the first of its kind in any industry to deal with the risks posed to workers by the virus.

SIPTU's Greg Ennis said that the agreement will be made available to all workers in their native language.

He said: "The fact that this protocol has been completed in conjunction with Meat Industry Ireland demonstrates there is a coherent approach by employers and workers' representatives in the industry which places the health of workers, their families and the wider community as its main priority."

Meat Industry Ireland has welcomed the development.

Its Director Cormac Healy said: "We are pleased to have worked with SIPTU to agree this set of safety protocols to protect employees in our sector.

"It formalises a wide range of measures that have already been put in place and will provide reassurance that the industry is 100% committed to taking all appropriate steps to mitigate the risk posed by Covid-19."