COVID-19, Enforcement and Inspection

Cal/OSHA Fines Farm, Staffing Agencies for COVID-19 Violations

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) cited Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., of Livingston and four staffing agencies for not protecting workers from COVID-19. The agency proposed that Foster Farms pay fines totaling $181,500.

California and COVID-19

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Cal/OSHA cited Foster Farms and issued $103,100 in fines for five serious, one repeat regulatory, and two regulatory violations at its Livingston plant and $78,400 for three serious, one repeat regulatory, and two regulatory violations at the distribution center. Regulatory violations were issued in both Foster Farms inspections and to Human Bees, Inc., one of Foster Farms’s staffing agencies, for its failure to timely report work-related fatalities.

The agency also issued serious violations related to its injury and illness prevention programs, many of which stemmed from failure to assess, correct, and properly communicate and train on COVID-19 workplace hazards. A third serious violation was issued for a blocked eyewash station at the plant.

In addition to California’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), the state has a permanent Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) standard requiring written safety and health management programs for recognized workplace safety and health hazards. The state IIPP standard has no federal equivalent.

Cal/OSHA opened its inspection after being informed an employee had died from COVID-19 complications. The agency subsequently determined that Foster Farms and Human Bees did not report the COVID-19 fatality in a timely manner.

Cal/OSHA also opened a separate inspection at the facility’s distribution center.

State inspectors found that employees at the Foster Farms facilities were stationed closer than 6 feet apart and congregated in company break rooms closer than 6 feet apart. Where physical barriers were used, the barrier configurations did not keep employees inside the physical barriers.

Cal/OSHA also alleged that Foster Farms failed to establish, implement, and maintain an IIPP to prevent COVID-19 hazards caused by exposures to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The company specifically failed to provide and ensure the use of effective face coverings for its own employees and its staffing agencies’ employees. Foster Farms also failed to correct fit issues with face coverings or replace contaminated or damaged face coverings.

Foster Farms operations utilized employees from the following staffing agencies, which also were cited for COVID-19 violations:

  • Human Bees, Inc., formerly known as Avitek Recruit, Inc., was cited for serious IIPP violations and a regulatory reporting violation and was fined $41,000.
  • Marcos Renteria Ag Services, Inc., was cited for serious IIPP violations and fined $36,000.
  • Intermountain Employment Services, Inc., doing business as Ascend Staffing, was cited for serious IIPP violations and fined $18,000.
  • Staffing Solutions Inc., doing business as Balance Staffing, was cited for a serious IIPP violation and fined $16,200.

California’s COVID-19 ETS remains in force but requires re-adoption from the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB). The board met on May 20 to consider re-adoption of the ETS, with proposed changes submitted May 7 by Cal/OSHA.

However, Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief Eric Berg sent a memorandum on May 19 asking the board to delay its vote to allow the agency time to prepare a new proposal for the board, incorporating new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those who are fully vaccinated and who no longer need to wear face coverings or maintain physical distances.