- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
Sept. 11, 2020
Smithfield Foods plans to contest a citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that claims it failed to protect employees from COVID-19.
OSHA proposed a a penalty of $13,494, which is the maximum allowed by law, for what it says is 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 employees contracted the virus, OSHA said, and four died in the spring.
Keira Lombardo, Smithfield executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance, called the citation “wholly without merit” and said the company plans to contest it.
She issued the following statement:
“After an investigation that spanned many months and encompassed the review of over 20,000 pages of documents and 60 interviews, OSHA has issued only a singular citation under its catch-all ‘general duty clause’ for conditions that existed on and prior to March 23, 2020. This is notable because OSHA did not issue guidelines for the meatpacking industry until April 26, 2020.
Despite this fact, we figured it out on our own. We took extraordinary measures on our own initiative to keep our employees as healthy and safe as possible so that we could fulfill our obligation to the American people to maintain the food supply. We incurred incremental expenses related to COVID-19 totaling $350 million during the second quarter alone. Ironically, OSHA then used what we had done as a model for its April 26 guidance.
“The fact is that the Sioux Falls community experienced an early spike in COVID-19 cases, which impacted our plant. We responded immediately, consulting with CDC, South Dakota Department of Health, USDA and many others. We also simultaneously and repeatedly urged OSHA to commit the time and resources to visit our operations in March and April. They did not do so.
“More than anything, the outcome of OSHA’s comprehensive, full-court-press investigation of our Sioux Falls facility validates the aggressive and comprehensive manner in which we have protected the health and safety of our employees amid the pandemic. Again, the citation is wholly without merit, and we plan to contest it.”
Smithfield has 15 business days after receiving 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.
Smithfield Foods plans to contest a citation from OSHA that claims it failed to protect employees from COVID-19.