GREEN BAY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Brown County

Green Bay meatpacking facility fined by OSHA

Coronavirus

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A Green Bay meat packing facility has been fined by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations relating to coronavirus.

According to a Friday news release, JBS Green Bay Inc. has been fined $13,494. They are one of 27 establishments receiving coronavirus-related citations totaling $381,388 from OSHA from Oct. 9-15.

OSHA says JBS has been cited because:

The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were working in close proximity to each other and were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19: On or about April 9 – 17, 2020, the employer did not develop and implement timely and effective measures to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Employees working at tables 1-6 of the Fabrication department worked in close proximity to each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. These conditions allowed the perpetuation of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility. As of April 22, 2020, the employer had 147 total positive tests out of approximately 1,265 employees.

In April, reports surfaced that numerous JBS employees had tested positive for coronavirus. At the time, JBS told WFRV Local 5 they would remain open and operating with “enhanced safety measures” during the coronavirus pandemic.

WFRV Local 5 contacted JBS for a statement, to which 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.”

Days later, Brown County Public Health connected a large cluster of coronavirus cases in the area to JBS.

By early May, over 300 cases of COVID-19 were connected to JBS. After being closed for over a week, JBS in Green Bay partially reopened on May 4.

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