Cal / OSHA proposes COVID-19 fines for Foster Farms –

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Cal / OSHA proposes COVID-19 fines for Foster Farms – fr


Following deadly COVID-19 outbreaks at poultry processing plants operated by Foster Farms in California’s Central Valley, state health and safety agency is proposing fines of nearly $ 300,000 .
Foster Farms, one of the West Coast’s largest poultry producers, has faced continued outbreaks of COVID-19 during the pandemic. By the end of 2020, 12 workers at Foster Farms had died.

The massive fines announced this week, totaling $ 292,700, relate to the Livingston facility of Foster Farms in Merced County, where nine workers died last year. In August, Merced County health officials ordered the temporary shutdown of the Livingston facility, citing an outbreak that had persisted for at least two months and a failure to conduct widespread coronavirus testing on workers.

Separately, three other people who worked at the Foster Farms Cherry Avenue factory in Fresno also died.

The California Division of Occupational Health and Safety, known as Cal / OSHA, proposed penalties of $ 181,500 to be imposed on Foster Farms and $ 111,200 on four staffing companies. Two of the recruiting companies that received proposed sanctions – Human Bees and Marcos Renteria Ag Services – have already filed an appeal, and Foster Farms is expected to appeal, according to Cal / OSHA spokesperson Erika Monterroza.

Employers can request a reduction in penalties by reducing violations or appealing citations within 15 days, according to Cal / OSHA. Employers can also appeal citations to the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeal Board, state officials said.

Foster Farms declined to comment. In December, a spokesperson for Foster Farms, Ira Brill, defended the company’s safety record and said it had instituted a strict policy of screening and screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms.

Foster Farms and recruiting firm Human Bees have been assessed regulatory violations for failing to promptly report the deaths, according to Cal / OSHA. The state agency also issued serious violations related to a failure to “communicate, assess, correct and properly train COVID-19 risks in the workplace.”

Labor experts and worker advocates said the deaths show the need for authorities to pay more attention to workplace safety in the Central Valley. Critics say officials have long paid insufficient attention to occupational safety hazards in this part of California.

Although the Central Valley has among the highest number of complaints and accidents, workplace safety inspections in this part of California have resulted in fewer inspection violations than in other parts of the United States. State, said Ana Padilla, executive director of UC Merced Community and Labor Center.

“This suggests that there is a regional disparity in enforcement when it comes to Cal / OSHA complaints and inspections,” Padilla said.

In addition, it should be noted “that it took Cal / OSHA 10 months to issue sanctions,” added Padilla, who “more than anything underscores the urgent need to allocate more resources or strategies to regulate the occupational health and safety. “

People who work in the meat and poultry processing sector are largely non-white and immigrant, and there are issues with workers not knowing their rights and facing language barriers to file claims. safety complaints, Padilla said.

Padilla also questioned whether the types of financial penalties that are usually imposed will be enough to change corporate behavior.

“A lot of companies can do a simple cost-benefit calculation and find that they get more profit by breaking the rules. And a lot of companies are also appealing and fighting every sanction and violation and getting a reduction, ”said Padilla. “We need sanctions that make the death of workers a consequence that no company takes into account.”

Poultry workers at Foster Farms’ Livingston plant are predominantly Latino and Punjabi Sikhs. Deep Singh, executive director of the Jakara Movement, a central valley nonprofit for youth and family that works with the Sikh Punjabi community, praised Cal / OSHA’s action, but also called for a review more carefulness on the part of the government – including criminal investigations where appropriate – to examine what they called “foolish decisions to pass the profits on to the people.”

For a company with vast resources, the proposed fine “is a slap in the face,” Singh said. As California moves towards a complete reopening of its economy, an effort must also be made “to understand what has caused so many outages, especially for companies that have not prioritized the safety of their workers. “.

Singh said a deceased worker was employed at the Foster Farms Fresno factory and was of Punjabi descent and in his sixties. He was close to retirement but continued to work when called in by the company, agreeing to cover for colleagues who fell ill.

His family believed he was infected at the factory because he and the others had avoided going out into the community other than for work or other essential reasons, Singh said. The worker fell ill with COVID-19 and spent his last three weeks in an intensive care unit before dying just before New Years Eve.

“He had a certain loyalty to the company, and it cost him his life,” Singh said.

The Central Valley has the most jobs in the animal slaughter and processing industry of any region in California, according to an analysis from the UC Merced Community and Labor Center.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly identified several outbreaks among meat and poultry processing workers across the country at the start of the pandemic. “Their work environments – processing lines and other areas in busy factories where they come in close contact with co-workers and supervisors – can contribute significantly to their potential exposures,” the CDC said.

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