OSHA Fines Smithfield, JBS for Lack of Worker Virus Protection

OSHA said at least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted COVID-19 and four employees died from it in the spring.

This April 8, 2020 photo shows the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD.
This April 8, 2020 photo shows the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD.
Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, SD — 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 on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited the company for one violation of the general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm. At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted coronavirus, and four employees died from the virus in the spring of 2020.

“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.

JBS Foods

GREELEY, CO – OSHA has cited JBS Foods Inc. in Greeley, CO, for failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus. OSHA proposed $15,615 in penalties.

Based on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited the company — which operates as Swift Beef 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 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.

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