In this file:
· Smithfield appeals OSHA fine for not protecting meat plant employees from COVID-19
… Smithfield Foods Inc. will appeal the fine, which spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said is “wholly without merit” because the company took ”extraordinary measures” to protect employees from the COVID-19 virus…
· Smithfield Foods in the crosshairs for failing to protect workers from COVID-19
… The citation from the US Labour Department did little to quiet complaints from labour unions and safety advocates, who say the Trump administration needs to do more to protect workers critical to the nation's food supply…
Smithfield appeals OSHA fine for not protecting meat plant employees from COVID-19
Food Safety News by Marler Clark
September 12, 2020
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. in Sioux Falls, SD, for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus. OSHA proposed a penalty of $13,494, the maximum allowed by law.
Based in Smithfield, VA, Smithfield Foods Inc. will appeal the fine, which spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said is “wholly without merit” because the company took ”extraordinary measures” to protect employees from the COVID-19 virus. And during the pandemic, Smithfield took direction from OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
But OSHA claims not enough was done to protect Smithfield employees at the Sioux Falls plant, which accounts for about 5 percent of the nation’s pork production. That production was lost during a three-week shutdown. Meat and poultry plants were put under the Defense Production Act on April 28, giving USDA extraordinary powers to have firms maintain production.
At about the same time, OSHA and CDC issued guidance to the facilities that were intended to keep employees from being infected by the virus. The Union Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls, says the OSHA fine is a “slap on the wrist.”
Four Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls died from COVID-19, and 1,294 contracted the virus. More than 7,000 are employed at the plant.
“Employers must quickly implement appropriate measures to protect their workers’ safety and health,” said OSHA Sioux Falls Area Director Sheila Stanley. “Employers must meet their obligations and take the necessary actions to prevent the spread of coronavirus at their worksite.”
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. OSHA guidance also advises that employers should provide safety and health information through training, visual aids, and other means to communicate important safety warnings in a language their workers understand.
Smithfield has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission...
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Smithfield Foods in the crosshairs for failing to protect workers from COVID-19
The Cattle Site
14 September 2020
The US Labour Department has cited Smithfield Foods for failing to protect employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
Reuters reports that Smithfield Foods is the first major meatpacker to face a fine after outbreaks of COVID-19 at abattoirs infected thousands of workers.
The citation from the US Labour Department did little to quiet complaints from labour unions and safety advocates, who say the Trump administration needs to do more to protect workers critical to the nation's food supply.
The Labour Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Smithfield's plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for "failing to provide a workplace free from recognised hazards that can cause death or serious harm," according to a statement.
At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted the coronavirus and four employees died this spring, OSHA said. The citation issued to the company said employees worked close to one another and were exposed to the virus.
OSHA proposed fining the world's biggest pork processor $13,494, the maximum allowed by law.
The citation comes as companies face increasing litigation over worker infections and mounting pressure to protect frontline employees. Critics said the penalty was too small.
"It's not even a slap on the wrist," said David Michaels, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, who served as US assistant secretary of labour for OSHA under the Obama administration.
"After 1,300 workers have been infected, dozens hospitalised and four killed, a small fine like this sends the message to Smithfield and other meatpacking companies that they have no reason to worry about OSHA."
The Labour Department said in a statement that OSHA was committed to protecting workers and cited Smithfield in accordance with well-established procedures and legal standards.
Smithfield, owned by China's WH Group Ltd, thinks the citation is without merit and plans to contest it, spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said. The company has taken steps to protect employees and spent $350 million related to COVID-19 during the second quarter, she said.
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Smithfield Foods pork plant faces OSHA fine from outbreak
By Stephen Groves, Associated Press
September 10, 2020
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Federal regulators said Thursday they have cited Smithfield Foods for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus at the company’s Sioux Falls plant, an early hot spot for virus infections that hobbled American meatpacking plants.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that employees were working closely together and exposed to the coronavirus. It also found that leading up to the first known infections at the plant on March 23, Smithfield did not do enough to space them out or provide other safety measures like face coverings or physical barriers.
The citation included the latest assessment of the virus’ impact at the Sioux Falls plant, with four workers killed by COVID-19, at least 1,294 infected and 43 hospitalized. Only two deaths among employees had been previously known.
Smithfield Foods, which is based in Virginia, said it planned to contest the citation and $13,494 fine. Keira Lombardo, a spokeswoman for the company, called the citation “wholly without merit” in a statement and argued the company had taken “extraordinary measures” to protect employees from infections.
OSHA conducted an investigation that spanned months as it conducted 60 interviews and reviewed over 20,000 pages of documents, according to Lombardo. She blamed coronavirus infections in Sioux Falls for causing the outbreak at the plant
Employees at the plant have said Smithfield did not do enoug h to prevent inspections in the plant, where workers labored elbow-to-elbow as they processed nearly 5% of the country’s pork. The union at the plant, the United Food and Commercial Workers, has said that it had been attempting to negotiate for more coronavirus protections leading up to the outbreak. After cases kept accumulating, Smithfield shuttered its plan t for nearly three weeks.
But large outbreaks at meatpacking plants across the nation soon followed. The United Food and Commercial Workers, the largest union representing meatpacking employees, has counted 122 meatpacking worker deaths.
Marc Perrone, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers, argued the fine did not go far enough to punish a company that makes billions of dollars in a year.
“This so-called ‘fine’ is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic,” he said.
Meatpacking companies have aggressively defended their role in providing the nation’s food supply, warning that if plants closed because of the pandemic, grocery stores shelves would see shortages of meat. After President Donald Trump signed an executive order in Apri l deeming meatpacking plants as critical infrastructure, they mostly stayed open.
The country’s slaughterhouses rebounded, and commercial red meat and pork production for this year has even exceeded last year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
OSHA began investigating Smithfield’s Sioux Falls plant on April 20, shortly after a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toured the facility to offer recommendations on how meatpacking plants could operate during the pandemic.
Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan has defended how the company handled the virus outbreak, sending a blistering, 14-page letter to Senate Democrats...