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The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has fined several meat processors and temporary employment agencies more than $265,000 for failing to protect workers from COVID-19, the agency said in a statement Wednesday.
Cal/OSHA initiated inspections of the meat processors’ plants after receiving complaints and notifications of workers with COVID-19 and a COVID-19 fatality at a plant. The agency said the employers failed to ensure workers had proper face coverings in production areas and failed to implement safe physical distancing procedures.
“Enforcement of COVID-19 protections at meatpacking and food processing facilities has been a priority of Cal/OSHA given the high rates of positive cases and alarming number of deaths among food processing workers,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in a statement. “These citations represent a portion of our enforcement efforts in these industries. More citations will be issued when violations are identified and inspections are closed.”
California Farms Meat Co. Inc., Central Valley Meat Holding Co., CLW Foods LLC, OWB Packers LLC, Smithfield Foods Inc. and three temporary employment agencies that provide employees for the meatpacking industry were cited for various violations. These included failure to:
The investigators also said that Smithfield failed to adequately address at least 300 COVID-19 illnesses — three of which required hospitalizations — at its Vernon, California, plant.
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
The Centers for Food Safety and the Food Chain Workers Alliance have filed a rulemaking petition with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, urging the agency to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect workers in the meat and poultry processing industries.