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Chick-News.com Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

OSHA Fines Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp

09/11/2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a penalty of $13,500 on Smithfield Packaged Meats Corporation as a result of the extensive outbreak of COVID-19 at the Sioux Falls, S.D. hog plant.  According to CDC and County data, 1,294 cases of COVID -19 were recorded with four fatalities. Assuming the plant employs 7,000 the rate of infection attained 18 percent. The fine proposed is the maximum allowed by law and effectively represents approximately $10 per affected employee.  In commenting on the proposed penalty, Sheila Stanley, Director of OSHA in the Sioux Falls Area commented in a press release "employers must quickly implement appropriate measures to protect their workers' safety and health".  She added "employers must meet their obligations and take the necessary actions to prevent the spread of coronavirus at their work sites".

 

Although there was considerable confusion as to specific protective measures, OSHA followed the lead of the Centers for Disease Control requiring social distancing, physical barriers, face shields and masks with safety and health information, training and warnings in languages that workers could understand.  Smithfield claims to have functioned in accordance with the Presidential Executive Order of April 28th requiring food plants to remain operational provided that CDC guidelines were followed. OSHA contends that protective measures were inadequate or delayed.

 

It is noted that many chicken companies including Perdue Farms were preemptive in their approach to prevention, implementing protective measures including installation of partitions between adjacent workstations, supplying PPE and other measures. In contrast a number of major red meat packers were tardy in complying with health and safety recommendations.

 

Smithfield owned by the WH Group of China have indicated that they will appeal the OSHA determination and fine, obviously to avoid an adverse verdict in anticipated civil litigation. It is anticipated that class action lawsuits will be filed against all the major red meat processors. A specific lawsuit in Texas against Tyson Foods was withdrawn without prejudice and will re-surface in the coming months.


 
Copyright © 2020 Simon M. Shane