OSHA reviews Smithfield cross contamination concerns between slaughter rooms and staff hydration drinks

OSHA investigates Smithfield possible cross-contamination claims
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 5:57 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Years ago, it was a different place to work. That’s the claim of Union President B.J. Motley, as he recalls when he first started on the job at Morrell’s, now Smithfield foods.

“A family-oriented company, you had your senior people, you know when I was a new fresh, they took care of me,” said Motley.

He says that is still the promise to new hires.

“But once you get inside is a whole different story,” said Motley.

Although the staff numbers have declined, Motley says the lines are going just as fast. He’s being notified of staff walking off the line.

“They shouldn’t be getting yelled at for what reason? Push, push, push, you know, and it just makes it more stressful,” said Motley.

Staff is telling Motley that they’re being assigned additional tasks that could cause safety problems, including the janitors.

“Picking up meat off the floor dealing with garbage, you know carcasses, you know abscess, to that effect,” said Motley.

They wash up but could have contaminants on them from the slaughter rooms as they now face their new additional task of preparing beverages for employees.

“It can get inside the Gatorade or whatever when you mix it in, and it can cause people to get ill,” said Motley.

The combination of cleaning up from a hog kill and then making beverages served to employees is under review. OSHA spokesperson Scott Allen confirms:

“We did receive a complaint from the Sioux Falls Union and are taking action. OSHA is in discussion with Smithfield, and the allegations are being addressed,” said Allen in a statement.

If there is one thing that both the union and Smithfield can agree on, it is their frustration.

“The communication is diminishing, and we can’t really get on the same page to make it better for the union and the company because we’re here to work together,” said Motley.

OSHA has several options during this investigative period: including writing a letter to address the allegations, Smithfield could explain any changes they have made, or OSHA could launch a full investigation, lasting up to 6 months, with a 15-day response time allotted to Smithfield.

The full statement from Smithfield Food addresses other issues:

“Hydration stations, including those where sports drinks are provided, are not located near production lines. We take all appropriate precautions and have never had a cross-contamination issue in the many years we have been following our well-established procedures. Hydration is an important part of our worker health and safety program.

Staffing shortages are impacting almost every company across the economy. Accordingly, we have adjusted production and related schedules to account for current staffing levels.

Union leadership has not made a sincere effort to discuss these claims with management at our Sioux Falls facility and has consistently failed to follow proper protocols established in our collective bargaining agreement. After declining a recent invitation for a meeting to discuss their concerns, union leadership inexplicably circulated an inaccurate depiction of working conditions to the media.” --Jim Monroe, Smithfield Corporate Affairs VP

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