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JBS Reaches Settlement with OSHA on COVID-19 Hazards

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Several of the firm’s subsidiaries and affiliates will develop and implement an infectious disease preparedness plan at seven plants.

Four JBS Foods subsidiaries and affiliates have agreed to assemble a team of company and third-party experts to develop and implement an infectious disease preparedness plan for seven of its meat processing facilities to protect its workers.

The team will include subject-matter experts recommended by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), who represent the workers at the covered facilities.

The agreement will affect workers at seven facilities: Swift Beef Co. in Greeley, CO, Swift Pork Co. in Beardstown, IL, Swift Beef Co. in Grand Island, NE, Swift Beef Co. in Omaha, NE, JBS Souderton Inc. in Souderton, PA, Swift Beef Co. in Cactus, TX, and JBS Green Bay Inc. in Green Bay, WI.

Following two inspections in April and May 2020, OSHA cited Swift Beef Co. in Greeley and JBS Green Bay in Green Bay – part of JBS USA – for their failures to protect workers from coronavirus hazards.

“This settlement is intended to ensure that, going forward, protective measures are in place to protect workers at these facilities from COVID-19 and from other infectious diseases as well,” OSHA’s Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver, said in a release. “This settlement will positively impact the safety and health of JBS employees far beyond the two facilities where these inspections occurred.”

After a COVID-19 outbreak, the Greeley plant was shut down on April 13, 2020, and reopened 14 days later. By July 30, 2020, the outbreak had led to five workers’ deaths, 51 hospitalizations, and 290 confirmed positive cases reported.

In Green Bay, the JBS plant closed on April 26, 2020, and remained shuttered until May 6, 2020. By April 22, 2020, 147 positive cases were confirmed. By Aug. 12, 2020, 357 positive cases were confirmed, and two workers had died of COVID-19.

“Employers are legally obligated to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace, and the US Department of Labor is committed to holding employers accountable when they fail to do so,” Regional Solicitor John Rainwater in Dallas said in a statement. “Terrible tragedies occurred at JBS facilities in Greeley and Green Bay, and we will ensure that this agreement is in full force to prevent a mass outbreak from happening again.”

The team of third-party multi-disciplinary experts and company representatives will also review JBS’ existing programs and procedures, including its occupational health system; evaluate and provide recommendations regarding engineering, administrative, and work practice controls, including ventilation, employee and visitor screening protocols, and cleaning; identify personal protective equipment and respiratory protection needs, including the number of respirators and other PPE to stockpile in preparation for future outbreaks, epidemics, or pandemics; and address occupational health issues related to infectious disease prevention and response, and provide recommendations on a continuity of operations plan.

After the seven facilities develop the infectious disease preparedness plans, each plant will designate a plan administrator to implement and monitor the plan. JBS will ensure that safety and health training related to the plan is provided in languages and at literacy levels that the workforce understands. JBS and authorized representatives will also evaluate the plan annually.

Swift Beef Co, and JBS Green Bay Inc, will pay OSHA an assessed penalty of $14,502.

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