SIOUX FALLS, SD. – Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. recently agreed to develop an infectious disease preparedness plan that the company will implement at all of its processing facilities nationwide. Smithfield also 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.
The plan is part of a settlement agreement Smithfield reached with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor. OSHA cited the company for failing to protect workers from coronavirus hazards at its Sioux Falls pork processing facility. As part of the agreement, Smithfield also will pay an assessed penalty of $13,494.
In 2020, Smithfield closed its Sioux Falls plant for 25 days in an effort to contain a COVID-19 outbreak. OSHA said 1,294 Smithfield workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and four died by June 16, 2020.
The agreement calls for Smithfield to continue using its current COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan while working with third-party experts to assess operating procedures at the plant and develop the new infectious disease preparedness plan.
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.
“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 Jennifer Rous, OSHA’s Regional Administrator 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.”