OSHA, Meat Firms Face Demands for COVID Info

Feb. 2, 2021
The chairman of a U.S House committee on the coronavirus has sent letters demanding an accounting of how the meat industry has handled the pandemic.

The chairman of a U.S House committee on the coronavirus has sent letters to three major meat processors and to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, demanding an accounting of how the meat industry has handled safety concerns during the pandemic.

U.S. Rep James Clyburn (D-S.C.) sent letters to OSHA and to Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA, outlining how meatpacking plants have been centers for COVID transmission. The letter to OSHA accuses it of an inadequate response to the pandemic, noting that “the agency issued only eight citations and less than $80,000 in penalties for coronavirus-related violations at meatpacking companies.” He took special note of a $13,494 fine that OSHA levied against Smithfield for an outbreak at its pork plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., calling it “paltry” and noting that it works out to less than $11 per infected employee.

Clyburn’s letter demands “all documents and communications” from the targeted companies relating to the number of infected employees, the history of plant closings, and other aspects of operations during the pandemic. It also demands similar information from OSHA.

Clyburn is chairing the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, a House subcommittee that was formed last April to look into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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