Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Connect

Cartwright Leads Effort Calling on OSHA to Step Up Enforcement of Safety Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants, Warehouses

May 7, 2020
Press Release
OSHA has Maintained its Policy of Few Inspections as COVID-19 Outbreaks Have Temporarily Shuttered Food Production Facilities Across the U.S.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) today wrote to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calling on the agency to enforce its guidelines for employers in essential industries to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities.

In the letter, Cartwright expresses concern that many of OSHA’s COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines are voluntary and largely are not enforced through inspections or other mechanisms. Although the agency released new guidance for meat and poultry processing workers and employers in late April, those too are merely recommendations.

According to the most recent enforcement memo on this matter from the U.S. Department of Labor — of which OSHA is a part — the agency’s current policy is to inspect few workplaces beyond those involved in health care or emergency response. Employers are instead asked to implement safety measures and investigate complaints on their own.

“Nationwide, COVID-19 outbreaks in factories, warehouses, meatpacking plants, and other facilities have claimed the lives of workers, closed facilities, and devastated the communities that rely on these jobs. These closures have also impacted the nation’s supply of meat, agricultural products, and other essential goods and services,” Cartwright writes in the letter. “In order to protect workers and ensure Americans have access to critical supplies, OSHA must issue enforceable national protective standards to ensure protections are provided. Robust enforcement of these standards is critical to mitigating the risk of transmission while ensuring vital supply chains remain operational.”

The letter was also signed by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).

The letter can be read below and here.

 

Loren Sweatt
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Sweatt:

As the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis continues to impact the lives of all Americans, we write to urge you to issue national workplace safety standards and ensure robust enforcement of guidelines that help keep workers and their families safe. As critical industries continue to operate, too many workers are being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. Stronger national standards are essential to mitigating the spread of this virus, and critical to reducing risk to workers and to the families they return home to at the end of every shift.

Nationwide, COVID-19 outbreaks in factories, warehouses, meatpacking plants, and other facilities have claimed the lives of workers, closed facilities, and devastated the communities that rely on these jobs. These closures have also impacted the nation’s supply of meat, agricultural products, and other essential goods and services. In order to protect workers and ensure Americans have access to critical supplies, OSHA must issue enforceable national protective standards to ensure protections are provided. Robust enforcement of these standards is critical to mitigating the risk of transmission while ensuring vital supply chains remain operational.

OSHA has taken important steps to issue voluntary COVID-19 workplace guidelines for certain industries. Setting voluntary guidelines sets a dangerous standard that leaves too many workers and their families at risk, threatens to extend the impact of this pandemic, and jeopardizes supply chains Americans rely upon.

Many states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have instituted more comprehensive standards and are rigorously enforcing these guidelines in order to ensure compliance and improve safety. To best slow the spread of the coronavirus and to keep as many workers safe as possible, more stringent standards should be implemented by OSHA nationwide.

On behalf of all Americans, we urge you to implement and enforce more stringent nationwide standards, in order to better protect workers and their families and shorten the impact of this pandemic. Now more than ever, Americans are relying upon OSHA to lead the national response in setting workplace standards for dealing with this pandemic as safely as possible.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your response.

/s/