Largest US pork processor agrees to develop, implement infectious disease preparedness plan, health training for workers
SIOUX FALLS, SD – Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. – the country’s largest pork processor – has agreed to assemble a team of company and third-party experts to develop an infectious disease preparedness plan that the company will implement at all of its processing facilities nationwide.
In a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. has committed to changing its health procedures and training relating to infectious diseases. The action follows a March 2020 Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection that led OSHA to cite the company under the general duty clause for failing to protect workers from coronavirus hazards at its Sioux Falls facility. As part of the agreement, Smithfield will pay the assessed penalty of $13,494.
In spring 2020, the company closed its Sioux Falls plant for 25 days in an effort to contain a COVID-19 outbreak. By June 16, 2020, 1,294 Smithfield workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and four died.
“The terms of this settlement are intended to ensure that Smithfield employees receive the training and protective measures necessary to protect them from exposure to the infectious diseases at their facilities,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver. “What happened at this facility was tragic and we must ensure that all steps in the agreement are followed to prevent a mass outbreak from happening again.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Smithfield will continue to use its current COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan to reduce employees’ exposure to the coronavirus while working with third-party experts to assess plants’ operating procedures and develop the infectious disease preparedness plan. Smithfield must evaluate work areas and other areas where employees congregate to minimize employees’ potential exposure to infectious diseases.
The team of third-party experts and company representatives will also:
- Review Smithfield’s existing programs and procedures.
- Evaluate plant administrative and engineering controls.
- Identify personal protective equipment and respiratory protection needs.
- Address medical management functions through the facility’s onsite clinic, and identify issues associated with continuity of operations.
- Train and implement program requirements in languages and at literacy levels that the workforce understands. Any written materials provided must also be in languages employees understand.
Following development of its infectious disease preparedness plan, Smithfield agreed to review the plan and revise it as necessary to address potential new infectious diseases and guidance from federal, state and local public health authorities, as well as review annual union feedback on the plan and its procedures.