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OSHA fines JBS Green Bay for coronavirus violations; company responds

Courtesy: Associated Press
Courtesy: Associated Press(WBAY)
Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 12:37 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced more than $1 million in fines against companies for violations related to coronavirus. Among those companies is the JBS meatpacking plant in Green Bay, which has been fined $13,494.

JBS, located at 1130 Lime Kiln, was the site of a large outbreak of COVID-19 in April. At one point, 262 employees had tested positive for coronavirus. The company closed the plant for a period during the outbreak.

JBS says the OSHA citation is “without merit.”

OSHA alleges JBS violated the OSH Act of 1970. The Act reads:

(a)

Each employer --

(1)

29 USC 654

shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

(2)

shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

(b)

Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Action 2 News reached out to JBS for a statement. They replied:

“The OSHA citation is entirely without merit. It attempts to impose a standard that did not exist in March as we fought the pandemic with no guidance. When OSHA finally provided guidance in late April, our previously implemented preventive measures largely exceeded any of their recommendations. Every proposed abatement in the citation was implemented months ago in Green Bay. These abatements would have been informative in February. Today, they don’t even meet our internal standards.

Coronavirus remains active in the Green Bay community and our focus is keeping the virus out of our facility. We have implemented hundreds of interventions to protect our workforce, including screening all employees prior to entering the facility, staggering start times and break times to promote physical distancing, requiring the use of masks and face shields, erecting physical barriers, installing UV germicidal air sanitation and plasma bipolar ionization technologies to neutralize potential viruses, and removing vulnerable populations from our facilities with full pay and benefits.

We ordered masks on March 19, before the CDC recommended their use on April 3. Global supplies were low and difficult to procure, but we mandated the use of masks companywide as soon as they were available for our more than 62,000 U.S. team members in early April. We have had our protocols reviewed by third-party experts and epidemiologists, and we now conduct random, routine surveillance testing of asymptomatic team members to ensure our preventive measures remain effective as the pandemic continues.”

Cameron Bruett, Head of Corporate Affairs

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