OSHA has cited a second large meat production company for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus.
Nearly 300 JBS employees in Greeley, CO, were infected with the COVID-19 virus since March and seven died. Six worked in the beef plant and a seventh was assigned to the JBS USA corporate headquarters located nearby.
OSHA has proposed $15,615 in penalties for the JBS beef plant in Greeley, CO. Earlier it imposed a similar fine for the Smithfield Foods meat plant in Sioux Falls, SD.
JBS USA, which operates as Swift Beef Co., took sharp exception to the federal agency’s findings, saying in a statement that “the OSHA citation is entirely without merit.”
“It attempts to impose a standard that did not exist in March as we fought the pandemic with no guidance,” the company said. “When OSHA finally provided guidance in late April, one month after the beginning of the citation time period, our previously implemented preventive measures largely exceeded any of their recommendations.”
Based on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited the company for a violation of the general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm. The $15,615 penalty assessed for the general duty clause violation is the maximum allowed by law. The company also failed to provide an authorized employee representative with injury and illness logs in a timely manner following OSHA’s May 2020 inspection.
“Employers need to take appropriate actions to protect their workers from the coronavirus,” said OSHA Denver Area Director Amanda Kupper. “OSHA has meatpacking industry guidance and other resources to assist in worker protection.”
OSHA guidance details proactive measures employers can take to protect workers from the coronavirus, such as social distancing measures and the use of physical barriers, face shields, and face coverings when employees are unable to physically distance at least 6 feet from each other. Employers are also required to maintain injury and illness logs.
JBS Foods has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.