The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a list of businesses that will be fined for COVID-19 workplace safety violations on Friday. The list included two large food companies, JBS, a meatpacking company, and Conagra, a packaged food company. JBS Green Bay Inc., a JBS location in Wisconsin, was fined $13,494 and Conagra Brands Inc. in Marshall, Mo. was given a fine of $2,145.
Fines given on Friday ranged from $1,735 to $23,133. The total amount of “proposed violations” for COVID-19 related violations now adds to $1,603,544 and includes 112 different establishments, 27 of which were listed in Friday’s announcement. Violations which have led to fines include failing to: “implement a written respiratory protection program,” provide training on respirator use and personal protective equipment, provide medical evaluations, report illness or fatalities, record injuries or illnesses on OSHA forms, and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause.
JBS was cited on Friday for not providing “employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were working in close proximity to each other and were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.” Specifically, workers in the fabrication department ewre working near each other allowing “the perpetuation” of a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility. The violation notice said that on April 22nd the location had 147 positive tests.
This is not the first time a JBS location has been given a fine for COVID-19 related violations, their Greenly, Colorado plant was among the first companies cited and given a proposed $15,615 fine on September 11 for “failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus.” This fine was for breaking the same clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and specifically for failing to “provide an authorized employee representative with injury and illness logs in a timely manner following OSHA’s May 2020 inspection.”
In the September notice regarding JBS’s fine, OSHA Denver Area Director Amanda Kupper said, “Employers need to take appropriate actions to protect their workers from the coronavirus … OSHA has meatpacking industry guidance and other resources to assist in worker protection.”
The record for the inspection of Conagra which led to the fines is currently open, so further information is not available, but standard 1904.4(a) is cited, saying “each employer (is) required by this part to keep records of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses must record each fatality, injury and illness that: is work-related, and is a new case, and meets one or more of the general recording criteria.”
The announcement said that resources to help employers comply with the standards are listed on OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage. The announcement said, “employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance.”