An organization that protects safe and healthy work conditions for employees in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has failed its mission in a meat packaging plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Three workers have filed a lawsuit in a federal court against the agency claiming that they have caused the plant to become dangerous and potentially fatal to all the employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. The organization was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970. The primary goal of OSHA is to protect employees by observing and verifying that working conditions are updated and safe to work in. However, the government foundation was unsuccessful at ensuring secure environments at a meat packaging franchise. Maid-Rite Specialty Foods is a frozen food manufacturer that produces meat products, such as chicken, pork, turkey, beef, and veal. Recently, their plant in Scranton has experienced an influx of attention, due to its questionable practices.
In July, three meatpacking workers decided to file a lawsuit against OSHA for unsafe working conditions after they failed to respond to the incident previously. The employees stated that the company has produced an “imminent danger” throughout the plant by inadequately implementing codes and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Originally filed in May, the suit states that Maid-Rite did not supply workers with appropriate equipment and failed to implement social distancing guidelines. In response, Maid-Rite reported to OSHA that they are not able to maintain a 6 feet distance between workers on the production lines, but they have provided workers with masks, given them staggered breaks, and performed deep cleanings of the plant. As a result, OSHA closed the case. Since then, one person who spoke out against the manufacturer claims that they did not separate sick workers in the plant, and people failed to tell the company that they were infected. In addition, the employee claimed that Maid-Rite provided workers with an incentive to work by providing bonuses to people who did not miss a day of work. According to public health officials, this decision encourages people to work when they are potentially sick. All the evidence described has led workers to go to a federal court in order to receive changes in their current working conditions.
It is proven by statistical and factual evidence that manufacturing plants are hot spots for the spread and development of COVID-19. Since coming forward with the accusations against OSHA, two of the plaintiffs have contracted the disease; although it is not proven that they received COVID-19 from the workplace. If you contract COVID-19 at work, it is possible that you may be eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. This evidence shows that OSHA and companies should mandate policies in order to prevent cases in all manufacturing plants in the nation.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not yet created a national list of requirements or codes for workplaces to prevent the spread of the virus. Virginia is the first state that has created policies and standards that businesses are expected to follow in order to prevent COVID-19 cases. This current lawsuit was one of the prominent cases to promote protection policies that directly address meat and poultry packaging plants. Workers are anticipating a change in the policies very soon in order to maintain healthy and protective practices in the workplace.