Meatpacking safety recommendations are largely unenforceable

The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., is seen Wednesday, April 8, 2020, where health officials reported more than 80 employees have confirmed cases of the coronavirus (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Federal recommendations meant to keep meatpacking workers safe as they return to plants that were shuttered by the coronavirus have little enforcement muscle behind them.

That is fueling anxiety that working conditions could put employees’ lives at risk.

Extensive guidance issued last month by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for meatpacking companies to erect physical barriers, enforce social distancing and install more hand-sanitizing stations, among other steps.

But the guidance is not mandatory. OSHA’s general guidance plainly says the recommendations are advisory and not a regulation or a new legal obligation.