A meatpacking plant and a temporary staffing company face a total of $104,795 in Cal/OSHA fines in connection with an investigation after 303 COVID-19 cases at the facility.
Cal/OSHA issued $58,100 in fines to Smithfield Food’s Farmer John plant in Vernon, CA, and $46,695 in fines to CitiStaff Solutions Inc. in East Los Angeles, CA, according to several online news accounts.
Most of the fines involve two serious violations issued to each employer:
- failure to prevent harmful exposures of Smithfield employees and contract employees to infectious airborne particles by ensuring the use of engineering controls to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including lack of face mask use and plexiglass screens or barriers, and
- failure to provide training to employees and contract employees about the hazards of COVID-19, including how the virus spreads, measures to avoid infection, symptoms, and how to safely use cleaners and disinfectants.
Smithfield was also fined for failure to report COVID-19 employee illnesses to Cal/OSHA and failure to consider at least 303 COVID-19 illnesses of its employees and contract employees to be work-related.
There are more than 1,800 workers at the plant. At least three of the COVID-19 cases were serious enough to require hospitalization.
Smithfield says it will “aggressively defend” itself against the citations. The food company says it investigates every employee coronavirus case and that Cal/OSHA “has taken the surprising position that every single person working at the plant who contracted COVID-19 caught the virus at work.”
Smithfield says it has also provided face masks, face shields and other PPE to its employees. It’s also installed plexiglass barriers and temperature scanning systems.