Reuters reports that the U.S. Labor Department said on Thursday it cited Smithfield Foods for failing to protect employees from the coronavirus, making it the first major US meatpacker to face a fine after outbreaks at slaughterhouses infected thousands of workers this spring and caused meat shortages.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for “failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm,” according to a statement.
At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted coronavirus, and four employees died from the virus this spring, the statement said.
OSHA proposed fining Smithfield $13,494, the maximum allowed by law. The citation comes as companies are facing increasing litigation over worker infections and mounting pressure to protect employees.
Nearly 20 plants run by companies like Smithfield, Tyson Foods Inc and JBS USA closed temporarily because of outbreaks.