World's largest pork producer fined $13,000 after 4 workers died from factory coronavirus outbreak
The world's largest pork producer has been charged a miniscule fraction of its annual sales after its workers contracted and died from COVID-19.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Thursday it would fine Smithfield Foods $13,494 for "failing to protect employees from exposure to the coronavirus." That's the maximum fine allowed by law, but doesn't quite measure up to the fact that Smithfield's outbreak killed four people and hospitalized 43 more, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.
Smithfield's South Dakota planet was home to one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the country, and in April, accounted for more than half of COVID-19 cases in the whole state. It took hundreds of workers getting sick for the plant to even temporarily shut down. Smithfield workers eventually sued the company, alleging it failed to provide protective equipment, made people work in close conditions, didn't give workers time to wash their hands, discouraged sick leave, and failed to test and contact trace workers — all of which further contributed to the spread.
At least 1,294 of the plant's 3,700 workers eventually contracted coronavirus, Thursday's OSHA release said. A total of 43 people had to go to the hospital, and four employees died of the disease. Smithfield foods brought in more than $13 billion in revenue in 2016, meaning this fine will cost them just .000001 percent of what they'll likely make again this year. "It's not even a slap on the wrist," David Michaels, who headed OSHA during the Obama administration, told Reuters.