In the wake of coronavirus citations at seven meat processing facilities, four JBS Foods USA subsidiaries and affiliates have agreed to assemble a team of company and third-party experts to develop and implement an infectious disease preparedness plan to better protect its workers. This move is part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Following two inspections in April and May 2020, OSHA cited Swift Beef Co. in Greeley and JBS Green Bay Inc. in Green Bay — part of JBS USA — for their failures to protect workers from coronavirus hazards.
The team will include subject-matter experts recommended by the OSHA and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, who represent the workers at the covered facilities.
“This settlement is intended to ensure that, going forward, protective measures are in place to protect workers at these facilities from COVID-19 and from other infectious diseases as well,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver. “This settlement will positively impact the safety and health of JBS employees far beyond the two facilities where these inspections occurred.”
The agreement will affect workers at the following seven facilities across six states:
Swift Beef Co. — Greeley, Colorado
JBS Souderton Inc. — Souderton, Pennsylvania
Swift Pork Co. — Beardstown, Illinois
Swift Beef Co. — Cactus, Texas
Swift Beef Co. — Grand Island, Nebraska
JBS Green Bay Inc. — Green Bay, Wisconsin
Swift Beef Co. — Omaha, Nebraska
After a COVID-19 outbreak, the Greeley plant was shut down on April 13, 2020, and reopened 14 days later. By July 30, 2020, the outbreak had led to five workers’ deaths, 51 hospitalizations, and 290 confirmed positive cases reported.
In Green Bay, the JBS plant closed on April 26, 2020, and remained shuttered until May 6, 2020. By April 22, 2020, 147 positive cases were confirmed. By Aug. 12, 2020, 357 positive cases were confirmed and two workers had died of COVID-19.
“Employers are legally obligated to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace, and the U.S. Department of Labor is committed to holding employers accountable when they fail to do so,” said Regional Solicitor John Rainwater, in Dallas. “Terrible tragedies occurred at JBS facilities in Greeley and Green Bay, and we will ensure that this agreement is in full force to prevent a mass outbreak from happening again.”
Under the agreement, the JBS subsidiaries and affiliates will use an updated Safe Work Playbook to reduce employee exposure to coronavirus while working with third-party experts to assess plants’ operating procedures and develop the infectious disease preparedness plan. The team of experts must evaluate work areas and other areas where employees congregate to minimize employee potential exposure to infectious diseases.
Swift Beef Co. and JBS Green Bay Inc. will pay an OSHA assessed penalty of $14,502.