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Feds force JBS to make infectious disease plan

Grand Island plant included in plan that stemmed from COVID pandemic
JBS must develop infectious disease plans at seven facilities after 7 employees died of COVID...
JBS must develop infectious disease plans at seven facilities after 7 employees died of COVID at plants in Greeley, Colo., and Green Bay, Wis.(JBSSA)
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 1:55 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND. Neb. (KSNB) - In a settlement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, JBS has agreed to implement infectious disease plans at seven of it’s plants, including Grand Island.

Two workers at the JBS Green Bay, Wis., plant and five at the Greeley, Colo., plant died from COVID in 2020. Hundreds of workers at JBS plants in 2020 caught COVID and some became seriously ill.

According to an OSHA press release, JBS has agreed to assemble a team of company and third-party experts to develop and implement an infectious disease preparedness plan for seven of its meat processing facilities to protect its workers.

The team will include subject-matter experts recommended by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, who represent the workers at the covered facilities.

The agreement will affect workers at the following seven facilities:

  • Grand Island
  • Omaha
  • Greeley, Colo.
  • Souderton, Pa.
  • Beardstown, Ill.
  • Cactus, Tex.
  • Green Bay, Wis.

Following two inspections in April and May 2020, OSHA cited Swift Beef Co. in Greeley and JBS Green Bay Inc. in Green Bay – part of JBS USA – for their failures to protect workers from coronavirus hazards.

“This settlement is intended to ensure that, going forward, protective measures are in place to protect workers at these facilities from COVID-19 and from other infectious diseases as well,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver. “This settlement will positively impact the safety and health of JBS employees far beyond the two facilities where these inspections occurred.”

After a COVID-19 outbreak, the Greeley plant was shut down on April 13, 2020, and reopened 14 days later. By July 30, 2020, the outbreak had led to five workers’ deaths, 51 hospitalizations and 290 confirmed positive cases reported.

In Green Bay, the JBS plant closed on April 26, 2020, and remained shuttered until May 6, 2020. By April 22, 2020, 147 positive cases were confirmed. By Aug. 12, 2020, 357 positive cases were confirmed and two workers had died of COVID-19.

“Employers are legally obligated to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace, and the U.S. Department of Labor is committed to holding employers accountable when they fail to do so,” said Regional Solicitor John Rainwater, in Dallas. “Terrible tragedies occurred at JBS facilities in Greeley and Green Bay, and we will ensure that this agreement is in full force to prevent a mass outbreak from happening again.”

Under the agreement, the JBS subsidiaries and affiliates will use an updated Safe Work Playbook to reduce employee exposure to coronavirus while working with third-party experts to assess plants’ operating procedures and develop the infectious disease preparedness plan. The team of experts must evaluate work areas and other areas where employees congregate to minimize employee potential exposure to infectious diseases.

Following development of its infectious disease preparedness plan, the seven JBS facilities will designate a plan administrator at each facility to implement and monitor the plan. JBS will ensure that safety and health training related to the plan is provided in languages and at literacy levels that the workforce understands. JBS and authorized employee representatives will also evaluate the plan annually.

Swift Beef Co. and JBS Green Bay Inc. will pay an OSHA assessed penalty of $14,502.

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