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Cal/OSHA Fines Frozen Food Firm for COVID-19 Violations

On September 9, 2020, Cal/OSHA announced citations and $400,000 in proposed penalties to Overhill Farms Inc. and its temporary employment agency Jobsource North America Inc. for repeatedly failing to protect hundreds of workers from COVID-19 exposure in Vernon frozen food plants.

The agency alleges that on April 28, it found 510 employees unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19 with at least 20 employees contracting the disease and one fatality.

According to Cal/OSHA the employers failed to install physical barriers or implement other workplace protection procedures such as where employees clock in and out, in the break room,  during parking operations and at the cart where they put their uniforms.  The employers also allegedly failed to train employees on COVID-related hazards, investigate the COVID illnesses or report the fatality to Cal/OSHA as required by law.

Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker commented: “It is critical that employers evaluate the workplace and take proactive measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. 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 has recently issued temporary emergency standards to further protect workers from COVID-19.  The agency also offers multi-lingual employer guidances by industry, webinars, training and other educational materials, and FAQs regarding pandemic protection, recordkeeping and reporting standards.

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For further information, please or contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Cindy Bamforth

December 2, 2020