Referring to a case involving Cal/OSHA and frozen foods manufacturer Overhill Farms Inc. and its temporary employment agency Jobsource North America Inc., employers failed to protect hundreds of employees from COVID-19 at two plants in Vernon. This was due to the lack of physical distancing procedures among workers including where they clock in and out of their shift, at the cart where they put on gloves and coats, in the break room, on the conveyor line, and during packing operations. Each employer accrued over $200,000 in proposed penalties.
The employers did not take any steps to install barriers or implement procedures to have employees work at least six feet away from each other and they did not investigate any of their employees’ COVID-19 infections, including more than 20 illnesses and, in the case of Overhill Farms, one death.
Other violations that put workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19 include the failure by both employers to train employees on the hazards presented by the virus and failure to investigate any of the more than 20 COVID-19 illnesses and one death Cal/OSHA uncovered amongst their employees. The employers did not adequately communicate the COVID-19 hazards to their workforce, and Overhill did not report a COVID-19 fatality to Cal/OSHA.
Illnesses must be investigated and additional protective measures implemented. Serious illnesses and deaths must be reported to Cal/OSHA. Employers should also notify workers of possible exposure and report outbreaks to county public health officials.