Cal/OSHA has cited eight more employers for not protecting workers from COVID-19 during inspections at meat processing facilities across the state.
The inspections were opened upon learning of a COVID-19 fatality and several illnesses, and after receiving complaints. The employers cited failed to take required steps to prevent COVID-19 infection in the workplace such as safe physical distancing procedures or proper face covering usage for workers in production areas.
“Enforcement of COVID-19 protections at meatpacking and food processing facilities has been a priority of Cal/OSHA given the high rates of positive cases and alarming number of deaths among food processing workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “These citations represent a portion of our enforcement efforts in these industries. More citations will be issued when violations are identified and inspections are closed.”
On November 12, Cal/OSHA cited Smithfield Foods, Inc. in Vernon $58,100 in proposed penalties for multiple COVID-19 related violations, including two serious in nature, and its staffing firm CitiStaff Solutions was also cited $46,695 for two serious violations. Both employers failed to ensure that workers used face coverings properly in production areas and during breaks, and failed to provide effective training and instruction on how the virus is spread and how to disinfect areas properly. The investigators determined that Smithfield Foods, Inc. failed to adequately address at least 300 COVID-19 illnesses (including three that required hospitalization) amongst its employees and contracted workers hired by CitiStaff Solutions. Smithfield Foods, Inc. further failed to report serious COVID-19 illnesses to Cal/OSHA.
Central Valley Meat Co. was cited for not informing employees of possible exposure when coworkers were infected with COVID-19 and for failing to provide face coverings and ensure their proper use. Cal/OSHA opened a complaint-initiated inspection at the facility in Hanford on April 29 and identified violations in the employer’s training procedures and response to COVID-19 hazards. Citations were issued on December 11 with $50,000 in proposed penalties for two violations classified as serious.
In June, Cal/OSHA became aware that several One World Beef Packer employees were hospitalized for complications related to COVID-19, including one employee who died. When Cal/OSHA inspected the Brawley facility, investigators noted that workers in the production lines and quality assurance area were not provided protective barriers and were working too close to each other. Furthermore, the employer failed to report the serious illnesses and fatality within the eight-hour time limit as required by law. Cal/OSHA cited One World Beef Packer $23,000 on December 11 for one serious violation and a regulatory violation for failing to report the serious illnesses.
After reports of outbreaks, Cal/OSHA opened inspections at meat processing plants in Vernon last June and July as part of a targeted enforcement effort. An onsite inspection at California Farms Meat Company confirmed the employer did not implement physical distancing procedures or install barriers in the production area, where workers separated chicken by hand and operated machines within close distance of each other. Cal/OSHA cited the employer $11,700 in proposed penalties on December 14 for the serious violation.
In July, Cal/OSHA opened inspections with CLW Foods and its staffing firms California Enterprises Employment and HR Staffing Solutions in Vernon. The employers were cited on December 14 for multiple violations, including some categorized as serious for failing to address COVID-19 hazards by training employees and ensuring proper physical distancing procedures on conveyor lines, in the production area and when employees took breaks. CLW Foods and California Enterprise Employment were also cited for failing to report serious COVID-19 illnesses to Cal/OSHA.