Statement: The DOL must ensure that corporations abide by OSHA’s standards for workplace safety!

For Immediate Release: September 11, 2020
Contact: Kara Watkins-Chow, kara.watkinschow@berlinrosen.com

Federal Government Issues First COVID-19 Safety Citation at a Meatpacking Plant Since Start of Pandemic

On Thursday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the first COVID-19-related citation to a meatpacking plant for failing to protect workers from the spread of the virus with a citation to a Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. More than 1,000 Smithfield workers contracted COVID-19 and four died at this plant in recent months, making it one of the most dangerous hot-spots for infection. 

In response to this citation, Navina Khanna, Executive Director of HEAL Food Alliance, issued the following statement:

“This citation suggests the Department of Labor may finally be taking the safety of working people seriously. For months, regulators sat on the sidelines while the Smithfield corporation exposed meatpacking workers to dangerous working conditions that facilitated the spread of COVID-19. While it’s heartening to see that our government is finally acknowledging the mistreatment of these Sioux Falls workers, similarly dangerous facilities across the country must be held accountable as well.

I urge the Department of Labor to continue to ensure that corporations abide by OSHA’s general standards for workplace safety. For instance, this week’s citation showed that Smithfield’s failure to slow the production line speed to allow for social distancing contributed to the spread of the virus in the plant. Every plant should consider slowing down their production lines to comply with OSHA’s general duty clause. And Congress must create comprehensive and enforceable COVID-19 workplace protections in relief policies like the HEROES Act in order to hold corporations like Smithfield, JBS and Tyson accountable for endangering workers.”

About the HEAL Food Alliance

HEAL is a multi-sector, multi-racial coalition building collective power to transform our food and farm systems. We are led by our member-organizations, and strive to amplify the experience and expertise of frontline communities who are most burdened by the disparities of our current systems. Together, we are developing solutions to drive change.

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“Undercover Investigation at Manitoba Pork Factory Farm” by Mercy For Animals Canada is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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