GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – The JBS plant in Greeley faces a $15,615 fine for failing to protect plant employees from the coronavirus. The fine came Friday from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The agency says the company did not follow proactive measures and did not provide injury and illness logs “in a timely manner” after an inspection in May.
JBS officials say the fine is without merit, and OSHA did not provide guidance until late April. The time period OSHA is fining JBS starts in March.
JBS tells CBS4 their preventive measures “largely exceeded” recommendations by OSHA at the time when they say the agency provided proactive measures.
“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, 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,” said Cameron Bruett, a spokesman for JBS in Greeley.
The company says they’ve been found in compliance with other agencies including the CDC and local and state health departments.
The UFCW LOCAL 7, which represents JBS employees, says the fine is “seven months and seven deaths too late.”
“It is immoral and unethical, but in the current Administration, unfortunately not illegal, that OSHA waited seven months to investigate the unsafe working conditions that led to this deadly outbreak,” said Kim Cordova, president of the UFCW LOCAL 7, on Saturday. She went on to say the fine is essentially a drop in the bucket for JBS and “incentivizes the company to continue endangering its employees.”
The fine is the maximum allowed under federal law, OSHA says.
Data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment shows the outbreak at JBS started on May 13 and was resolved on May 27. It shows there were five lab-confirmed coronavirus cases and one lab-confirmed coronavirus death.
JBS now has 15 business days to comply, ask to meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings.
“The Union will not give up our fight for better conditions for our members working in the plant, for our members still struggling to recover physically and financially from this virus, and for the families of those we lost,” said Cordova.