Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp., Sioux Falls, SD, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 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 six 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.