Smithfield Foods must develop infectious disease plan for all US plants after OSHA settlement in South Dakota
By Stephen Groves, Associated Press
via The Virginian-Pilot - Nov 15, 2021
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Federal workplace safety regulators announced Monday that they have reached an agreement with Smithfield Foods to settle a contested citation of the company’s coronavirus safety measures during a massive outbreak last year at a South Dakota pork processing plant.
Under the agreement, Virginia-based Smithfield Foods will develop a plan to prevent infectious diseases at meatpacking plants nationwide and pay a $13,500 fine.
Smithfield’s Sioux Falls plant was one the nation’s worst COVID-19 hotspots during the early days of the pandemic. By June 16, 2020, four workers were dead and nearly 1,300 had tested positive for the virus, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After an investigation, the federal agency said Smithfield did not do enough to space workers out or provide other safety measures such as face coverings or physical barriers.
However, the company contested that assessment and defended its actions at a time when safety precautions against COVID-19 were not clear.
Smithfield’s spokesman, Jim Monroe, said the company admitted no wrongdoing and called OSHA’s allegations “baseless.”
“Settling with OSHA and avoiding litigation allows Smithfield to continue the good relations it has with the agency, as we have the shared goal of workplace safety,” he said.
The president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers union, B.J. Motley, derided the settlement and $13,500 fine as a “slap on the wrist for Smithfield and a deeply troubling betrayal of the men and women who have already sacrificed so much in this pandemic.”
Employees at the plant...
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