CAL/OSHA has been conducting sweeps of employers in California to root out those who are not protecting their workers from COVID-19 exposure.

The agency targeted companies in industries that have a heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus, which resulted in 11 citations being issued.

The recent sweeps are part of a new targeted and ongoing enforcement effort that California employers should be aware of.

Fines have varied, but for egregious cases, they can be steep. To date, the largest citations were issued on a temp agency, Jobsource North America Inc., and frozen-food maker Overhill Farms Inc., which face more than $200,000 each in proposed penalties for allegedly failing to protect hundreds of workers at two poultry plants.

Cal/OSHA inspected the facilities after receiving an anonymous complaint from a worker at one of the plants. It found hundreds of workers were exposed to the coronavirus due to the lack of physical distancing procedures among employees.

TYPICAL COVID-19-RELATED CITATIONS

Failure to reduce exposure to employees through the use of engineering controls such as face coverings or the use of Plexiglas or other physical distancing barriers.

  • Failture to identify, evaluate and correct workplace hazards relating to COVID-19.
  • Not investigating employees’ COVID-19 infections.
  • Failure to provide effective training to employees on procedures to mitigate risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • Failing to report a COVID-19 fatality or serious illness to Cal/OSHA

The most recent sweeps

In the recent sweeps, the agency cited 11 employers for not protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure. Proposed penalties for those firms range from $2,025 to 105,000, according to Cal/ OSHA.

Most of the citations were for failing to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 because the businesses did not take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the coronavirus.

The citations were issued on firms in the following sectors:

  • Food processing
  • Health care
  • Agriculture
  • Supermarkets
  • Employment agencies and labor services.

WHAT’S PROMPTING INSPECTIONS

  • Employees became seriously ill,
  • Cal/OSHA received complaints about workplace conditions, or
  • Joint enforcement efforts on high-risk, targeted industries.

The takeaway

Word from Cal/OSHA is that it is continuing to conduct targeted inspections, as well as respond to complaints from insiders about employers who may not be taking steps to protect their workers.

The best way for your firm to avoid penalties is to follow Cal/OSHA and state guidelines for protecting your workers against COVID-19.

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