Two Meat Packing Plants Fined for Failing to Protect Their Employees

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Smithfield’s food plant in South Dakota and JBS plant in Colorado were both fined by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to provide a “[workplace] free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were working in close proximity to each other and were exposed to.” On top of that, they were also fined because they failed to react quickly to place measures to keep their employees safe. 

Smithfield was fined a total of $13,494 and JBS was fined a total of $15,615, each receiving the maximum allowed fine for a serious violation. Unlike Smithfield, JBS was charged an extra $2,121, for a not-so-serious violation. Company workers and workers safety groups criticized OSHA for how long it took for them to investigate the plants and how little each company was fined, saying that such small fines will provide no change and might even encourage these companies to remain open, as remaining open would be more profitable than closing. Executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance, Keira Lombardo, at Smithfield, criticized OSHA for being slow to issue any sort of guidelines, despite the company urging them to visit their plants in March and April. JBS was also very critical of OSHA, “agency did not provide guidance until late April on ways to remedy safety problems that would have prevented the spread of the coronavirus in plants.” In response to the company’s criticism, OSHA said they “met legal mandates since it has a six month statute of limitations to complete any investigation and issue a citation.” Additionally, they stated that the guidelines for these companies to follow were well-known at the time and Smithfield failed to meet them in a timely manner. Unlike the fines given at these plants, California has its own OSHA program and has fined a company $220,000 for similar violations.