The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued citations to frozen food manufacturer Overhill Farms Inc. and a temporary employment agency Jobsource North America Inc. for failing to protect hundreds of employees from COVID-19 at two plants in Vernon. The agency proposed penalties of over $200,000 for each employer.
The employers did not implement procedures to have employees work at least 6 feet away from each other or install barriers and did not investigate employees’ COVID-19 infections that included more than 20 illnesses and 1 death.
“It is critical that employers evaluate the workplace and take proactive measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in a statement. “If a COVID-19 illness occurs, employers must investigate the case to determine if additional protective measures should be taken and report the serious illnesses and deaths to Cal/OSHA. Employers should also notify workers of possible exposure and report outbreaks to county public health officials.”
Cal/OSHA opened inspections on April 28 with Overhill Farms and Jobsource after receiving complaints of hazards related to COVID-19. The inspections included visits to two facilities in Vernon where Overhill Farms employees and workers from Jobsource manufacture a variety of frozen foods.
The state agency found hundreds of employees exposed to serious illness from COVID-19 due to the lack of physical distancing procedures among workers, including where employees 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.
The COVID-19-related violations cited at the 2 plants include $222,075 in proposed penalties to Overhill Farms and $214,080 in proposed penalties to Jobsource.