The agency announced Thursday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sued pork producer Smithfield Foods for failing to protect workers from coronavirus exposure.
He proposed a $ 13,494 fine, which is the maximum allowed by law, to Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. of Sioux Falls, S.D. This is the first citation related to the coronavirus from OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor.
The Sioux Falls plant was the site of a coronavirus outbreak in April, and OSHA sued the company for a breach of the general duty clause for failing to provide a risk-free workplace. At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted the coronavirus and four employees died from the virus in the spring of 2020, OSHA confirmed.
Smithfield replied Thursday that the OSHA quote is “entirely without merit”
“After an investigation lasting many months and including the review of more than 20,000 pages of documents and 60 interviews, OSHA issued only a singular citation under its” general duty clause “for existing conditions on March 23, 2020. and before that, “Keira Lombardo, Smithfield’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance, said in a statement.
He added that Smithfield took “extraordinary steps” to keep employees healthy and when the spike occurred at the Sioux Falls plant, “he responded immediately, consulting with [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC, South Dakota Department of Health, [U.S. Department of Agriculture] USDA and many others “.
The OSHA guide states that companies must take proactive measures to protect workers, including the requirement of social distancing, providing face covers, and installing physical barriers. OSHA has refused to impose a national COVID-19 occupational safety standard through a temporary emergency standard, despite months of calls from unions, Democrats and labor advocates.
The Sioux Falls plant, which accounts for up to 5% of pork production in the United States, was temporarily closed in April due to the outbreak. Smithfield was also sued on charges of failing to protect workers at a Missouri plant during the pandemic.
Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCourt documents show that the postal service removed 711 mail sorting machines this year. Overnight Health Care: Trump Privately Called Coronavirus “Deadly” While Publicly Confronting It With Flu | Health officials pledge to keep policy out of the vaccination process | Senate Report Notes Post Delays Slow Prescription Delivery Night Defense: Woodward’s Book Causes New Firestorm | Book Says Trump Lashed Out at Generals, Told Woodward About Secret Weapon System | The US withdraws thousands of troops from Iraq MORE (D-Mass.) He responded on Thursday, saying it’s not enough and that the Smithfield CEO must be held accountable.
“This meager fine, months too late, is not enough and if OSHA were serious about doing its job, it would aggressively step up its investigation and enforcement activities to hold giant meat packers accountable and issue a temporary standard. with applicable health and safety protections, “he said.
Warren and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker Brave New Post-COVID World NJ Governor Proposes, 000 ‘Baby Bonds’ For Children To Bridge Wealth Gap Biden-Harris Calls For ‘Heal America’ At Republican Convention MORE (D-N.J.) It opened an investigation into Smithfield and other major meat-packing companies in June on allegations of worker exploitation, among other issues.
In a public response, Smithfield’s CEO said, “The allegation that they were unwilling to implement worker protections is blatantly and demonstrably false.”
“It is a federal crime to lie to Congress,” Warren said Thursday. “If Smithfield’s chief executive was aware of OSHA’s findings at the same time he called the allegations of maltreatment of workers demonstrably false, he should be held accountable.”