Meatpacking companies in Colorado and South Dakota were fined for failing to protect workers from recognized hazards under the general duty clause of the OSHA Act. Both penalties assessed for the violations are the maximum allowed by law.
OSHA cited a meatpacking company in Greely, Co. following a coronavirus-related inspection for violation of the general duty clause. This clause requires that employees provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm.
The company also failed to provide an authorized employee representative with injury and illness logs in a timely manner following the May 2020 inspection. OSHA proposed $15,615 in penalties.
“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.”
In South Dakota, another meat packaging at least 1,294 workers contracted coronavirus and four employees died from the virus in spring of 2020. Following a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA cited the company for a violation of the general duty clause and proposed a penalty of $13,494.
“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.”
CDC Recommendations For Meat Processing Facilities
The meatpacking and processing industries have been especially vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19.
OSHA and the CDC released special guidance that calls for poultry and meat processing plants to conduct worksite assessments in order to identify and mitigate COVID-19 risks.
Here top recommendations made to minimize meat processing workers’ exposure to the virus:
- Screen workers before they enter the workplace.
- If a worker becomes sick, send him/her home and disinfect his/her workstation and any tools that person used.
- Move workstations farther apart.
- Install partitions between workstations using strip curtains, plexiglass, or similar materials.
- To limit spread between groups, assign the same workers to the same shifts with the same coworkers.
- Prevent workers from using other workers’ equipment.
- Allow workers to wear face coverings when entering, inside, and exiting the facility.
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns to their supervisors.
You can find additional resources and learn more about OSHA’s response to the coronavirus at https://www.worksitemed.com/coronavirus-resources/ and www.osha.gov/coronavirus.
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