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OSHA Won’t Cite Meat Packers That Try to Follow Virus Guidance

April 29, 2020, 3:27 AM

Following President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order Tuesday that compels meat processors to remain open, OSHA and the Solicitor of Labor are reminding employers they should try to follow recent OSHA guidance on protecting workers from coronavirus infections.

“Employers should conduct worksite assessments to identify Covid-19 risks and prevention strategies and then implement them,” Solicitor of Labor Kate O’Scannlain and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA Loren Sweatt said in statement late Tuesday.

Before Tuesday, OSHA initiated inspections at five plants with publicized virus outbreaks—Smithfield Foods Inc. in Kansas City, Mo.; National Beef Packing Co. in Liberal, Kan.; Tyson Foods Inc. in Dakota City, Neb.; JBS Green Bay Inc. in Green Bay, Wis.; and Cargill Meat Solutions in Marshall, Mo.

Guidance issued April 26 calls for meat and poultry processing plants to conduct worksite assessments to identify Covid-19 risks and then mitigate the risks. Methods include erecting barriers between workers on processing lines and discouraging the use of carpooling and shuttle buses.

“It is important that employers seek to adhere to this guidance,” Sweatt and O’Scannlain said.

If employers determine that measures aren’t feasible, they’re encouraged to document why.

In the event of an investigation, OSHA will take into account good faith attempts to follow the guidance and doesn’t anticipate citing employers that adhere to the recommendations, the officials said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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