Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, wrote a letter to the Iowa Division of Labor to formally request an investigation of the handling of a workplace complaint from a Tyson Foods pork processing plant by the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

On May 18, Axne publicly called for an investigation after the Associated Press reported that Iowa OSHA had failed to thoroughly follow up on an employee complaint at the Tyson Foods plant in Perry, Iowa, – a plant that earlier this month reported more than 700 of its staff had contracted COVID-19.

“It is clear the investigation conducted by Iowa OSHA was severely lacking,” Axne wrote. “Iowans are going to depend on Iowa OSHA…therefore, the public must know why a direct complaint of unsafe conditions failed to produce any confirmation of an outbreak.”

The letter seeks public disclosure of specific answers in relation to the case.

Axne asked that the investigation and report focus on:

  • What steps does Iowa OSHA follow upon receiving a worker complaint to closing it?
  • Why did it take Iowa OSHA nine days to seek an answer from the plant, and if nine days has been the standard, will Iowa OSHA make changes to assure the public of a rapid response during a public health emergency?
  • What information did Iowa OSHA gather to inform the investigation and did OSHA verify the e-mailed information from the plant?
  • If complaints of COVID-19 do not normally result in on-site inspections, what would trigger an inspection and why did the investigation fail to meet that standard?

Tyson Foods temporarily closed the Perry plant, the company reported in April.

“With many businesses re-opening across the state, Iowans need to be assured that issues of workplace safety will be taken seriously, investigated swiftly, and inspected thoroughly. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and I look forward to your response,” wrote Axne, who is in her first term representing Iowa’s third district.

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