BRAWLEY — In late December, the state Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, announced it had fined One World Beef Packers in Brawley some $23,000 in connection to the COVID-19-related death of one of its employees during an outbreak in late May, according to a press release.
In June, Cal/OSHA became aware that several One World Beef Packers employees were hospitalized for complications related to COVID-19, including one employee who died. When Cal/OSHA inspected the Brawley facility at 57 Shank Road, investigators noted that workers in the production lines and quality assurance area were not provided protective barriers and were working too close to each other, a Dec. 23 press release stated.
Further, the employer failed to report the serious illnesses and fatality within the eight-hour time limit as required by law. As a result, Cal/OSHA cited One World Beef Packers a total of $23,000 on Dec. 11 for one serious violation and a regulatory violation for failing to report the serious illnesses.
“Enforcement of COVID-19 protections at meatpacking and food-processing facilities has been a priority of Cal/OSHA given the high rates of positive cases and alarming number of deaths among food-processing workers,” stated Cal/OSHA chief Doug Parker in the release. “These citations represent a portion of our enforcement efforts in these industries. More citations will be issued when violations are identified and inspections are closed.”
The press release came along with the announcement of citations of seven other meat-processing facilities across the state. In One World Beef’s case, the company was fined $18,000 for the “serious” violation of state’s injury and illness prevention program, and $5,000 for the regulatory violation of reporting work-connected fatalities and serious injuries.
Despite having more than 200 employees who have tested positive for COVID since the pandemic started, it does not appear One World Beef had received any federal workplace fines related to conditions as of late November, when The Counter, a nonprofit, newsroom investigating food-related and food-processing-related issues, wrote on the Brawley plant as part of a Nov. 24 report.
Some of the criticism leveled against the meat-processing industry in general in The Counter’s reporting is that no fines, or relatively small fines, have been issued against violators in the industry on both the state and federal levels despite thousands of infections and dozens of deaths nationwide.