American pork processor Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. is preparing to develop and introduce a infectious disease preparedness plan at all of its processing facilities as part of a settlement agreement with the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency announced in a release Monday.
The agreement comes after Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, SD facility was cited by OSHA in March 2020 under the general duty clause for failing to protect workers from coronavirus hazards. Smithfield agreed to pay the assessed penalty of $13,494 as part of the agreement.
Smithfield closed the Sioux Falls location for 25 days in spring 2020 as part of an effort to combat the spread of the virus. As of June 16, 2020, 1,294 Smithfield workers tested positive for COVID-19. Four of those infected died.
“The terms of this settlement are intended to ensure that Smithfield employees receive the training and protective measures necessary to protect them from exposure to the infectious diseases at their facilities,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver in a statement. “What happened at this facility was tragic and we must ensure that all steps in the agreement are followed to prevent a mass outbreak from happening again.”
Smithfield will form a team of company and third-party experts to create the infectious disease preparedness plan. The firm will continue to utilize its existing COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan while the plan is under development.
Powder & Bulk Solids reported in March that Smithfield has committed some $700 million to implement COVID-19 safety measures across its operations. Chief Admirative Officer Keira Lombardo stated that the funds were used for on-site COVID-19 prescreening and testing facilities, air purification systems, physical barriers at workstations; PPE, facility modifications and expansions, sanitation stations, signage, and the hiring of new employees to ensure that staff adhere to safety protocols.