... At Tyson Foods Inc, testing in late April revealed nearly 900 employees in Logansport, Indiana, had contracted COVID-19. Workers at the pork-processing facility had flagged problems weeks before the outbreak. Workers sent in 13 complaints to OSHA, detailing what one filing described as “packed” working conditions, a lack of protective gear and people with fevers continuing to show up for shifts. Indiana OSHA never inspected the site for COVID-19 problems, and it closed the complaints after getting documents from the company in response to agency emails...   

 

 

Special Report-U.S. regulators ignored workers' COVID-19 safety complaints amid deadly outbreaks

 

By Chris Kirkham and Benjamin Lesser, Reuters 

January 6, 2021

 

(Reuters) - Miguel Cabezola, a driver for United Parcel Service Inc in Tucson, Arizona, complained on March 27 to U.S. workplace safety regulators, alleging the company was taking a lax approach to social distancing, sanitizing equipment and quarantining workers with COVID-19 symptoms. He hoped for an inspection of the facility that would force changes to protect worker safety.

 

Instead, the state arm of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) summarized Cabezola’s concerns in an email to company management, reviewed the UPS response and closed the file.

 

Over the next two months, a COVID-19 outbreak infected more than 40 Tucson UPS workers - including a manager who eventually died - and caused delivery delays throughout southern Arizona, according to interviews with six Tucson UPS workers and local union officials of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

 

Cabezola’s complaint to the regulator, along with that of another worker in May, had “zero effect,” said Karla Schumann, head of the local Teamsters union representing UPS workers. Asked about the outbreak, UPS expressed regret about the manager’s death and said it has strengthened protocols requiring social distancing and sanitation since the early days of the pandemic.

 

The UPS outbreak is among dozens of cases identified by Reuters where OSHA largely disregarded workers who reported lax pandemic safety practices, according to agency records...

 

The workers’ regulatory complaints came from a cross-section of companies that included some of America’s best-known firms, including Tesla Inc and Tyson Foods Inc.

 

As of mid-December, just 12 of the 106 facilities have been penalized in response to workers’ complaints. The complaints came from a wide range of workplaces, from meatpacking plants and factories to e-commerce warehouses and nursing homes. Their employees alleged failures to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing; managers pressuring sick employees to work; and a lack of notification to employees about co-workers’ infections...

 

NO COVID-19 STANDARDS, LOW FINES ...

 

GUTTING REPORTING REQUIREMENTS ...

 

COMING TO WORK SICK

 

At Tyson Foods Inc, testing in late April revealed nearly 900 employees in Logansport, Indiana, had contracted COVID-19. Workers at the pork-processing facility had flagged problems weeks before the outbreak. Workers sent in 13 complaints to OSHA, detailing what one filing described as “packed” working conditions, a lack of protective gear and people with fevers continuing to show up for shifts.

 

Indiana OSHA never inspected the site for COVID-19 problems, and it closed the complaints after getting documents from the company in response to agency emails.

 

The state agency said in a statement that all but two of the complaints were anonymous, which made it difficult to follow up with workers. The agency said Tyson provided documents showing that the company worked to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 

Gary Harris, 62, a loading dock worker at the Tyson hog processing plant in Logansport, said workers were left in the dark for weeks about the extent of the virus. Most workers started raising alarms to management when they noticed how many people were absent.

 

“They just started coming up missing, and that grew the fear,” Harris said.

 

Cass County - the rural stretch surrounding the Logansport facility - went from having few COVID-19 cases to recording among the highest number in the state by late April. Harris called the Tyson plant a “superspreader” and said there was friction between Tyson workers and others in the community, who blamed the workers for the spread.

 

Tyson did not answer questions from Reuters about its workers’ OSHA complaints, but said it has invested $540 million since April in safety improvements across all its U.S. plants, including temperature checks, health screenings, random testing and plexiglass dividers for workstations. The company said it has worked closely with local health officials and OSHA, and has “consistently met or exceeded guidance” from health authorities.

 

‘AVOIDABLE’ OUTBREAK ...

 

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-workplace-safety-s/special-report-u-s-regulators-ignored-workers-covid-19-safety-complaints-amid-deadly-outbreaks-idUSKBN29B1FQ