WASHINGTON – In a letter to the Iowa Division of Labor, Representative Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) formally requested an investigation into the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) management of a workplace complaint at the Tyson Foods pork plant in Perry, Iowa.
Axne asked for this investigation following an Associated Press report that Iowa OSHA did not thoroughly follow up on an employee complaint where more than 700 people contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19). Axne said that an employee filed a complaint on April 11, and it took Iowa OSHA nine days to seek a response from the plant.
“It is clear the investigation conducted by Iowa OSHA was severely lacking,” Axne said in her letter. “Iowans are going to depend on Iowa OSHA as our economy tests its ability to safely reopen; therefore, the public must know why a direct complaint of unsafe conditions failed to produce any confirmation of an outbreak we now know to have spread to more than half of this plant’s workers.”
- The letter outlines public disclosure for answers in the case including:
- What steps does Iowa OSHA follow upon receiving a worker complaint to closing it?
- Why did it take Iowa OSHA nine days to seek an answer from the plant?
- What information did Iowa OSHA gather to inform the investigation?
If complaints of COVID-19 do not normally result in on-site inspections, what would trigger an inspection and why did the investigation fail to meet that standard?
Tyson Foods temporarily closed its pork plant in Perry, Iowa, during April. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 730 employees, or nearly 60% of the workforce, tested positive for COVID-19. Operations at the plant resumed April 24.