OSHA recently announced enforcement actions against two meat packing facilities related to COVID-19 workplace safety. Cal/OSHA also announced citations against a frozen food manufacturer in the Golden State for COVID-19 workplace safety violations.
These actions underscore the importance for employers to encourage social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfecting, use and proper care of cloth face coverings, and use of PPE when necessary in order to keep workers safe from coronavirus.
After a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA concluded that a meat packing facility in Colorado allegedly failed to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards
that could cause death or serious harm, a violation under the General Duty Clause.
According to OSHA, the company also failed to provide an authorized employee representative with injury and illness logs in a timely manner during another inspection.
OSHA proposed a fine of $15,615, the maximum permissible amount under the general duty clause.
Sioux Falls, SD
OSHA recently cited a meat producer and distributor in South Dakota for failing to protect employees from exposure to the COVID-19.
Based on a coronavirus-related inspection, OSHA alleged the company violated the General Duty Clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm. In the spring of 2020, at least 1,294 workers at the plant contracted COVID-19
, four of which died from the virus.
OSHA has proposed a penalty of $13,494 and the company has 15 business days to comply and request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Employer Responsibilities Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause
Employers have a responsibility under the law to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a workplace “free of recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his (or her) employees”[OSH Act, Section 5(a)(1)].
These requirements apply to preventing occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). OSHA has outlined specific measures employers can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, employers should:
- Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan.
- Establish policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people.
- Implement workplace controls (i.e., frequent handwashing, installing physical barriers, and/or encouraging sick workers to stay home).
- Provide PPE when needed (i.e., gloves, face masks, respirators, goggles, face shields).
One More Citation from Cal/OSHA
Although no specific COVID-19 safety measures are required by OSHA, many states have enacted their own COVID-19 workplace safety requirements
, including California, Virginia, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, and New Mexico.
In fact, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Cal/OSHA, recently announced citations against a frozen food manufacturer
that operates two facilities in Vernon, CA. According to the agency, the company failed to develop protocols to keep workers at least six feet apart.
The company also allegedly failed to investigate and report work-related COVID-19 infections. This included more than 20 infections and one fatality.
Cal/OSHA proposed a penalty of $222,075. The company has already fixed some of the deficiencies.
COVID-19 Safety Awareness Online Training
To help US workplaces safely resume and continue operations, Lion has launched the COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness Online Course
. As more employees nationwide return to work, it is crucial that they know how to protect themselves and their co-workers from exposure to COVID-19.
The course prepares employees to:
- Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors for COVID-19.
- Describe how the COVID-19 disease is transmitted.
- Follow recommended hygiene and work protocols to prevent exposure.
- Properly use and care for PPE and face coverings, when required.