In early September, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA”) announced that it cited 11 employers for not protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure. The inspections were conducted in industries where employees have an increased risk of exposure, including food processing, meatpacking, health care, agriculture and retail. The proposed penalties ranged from $2,025 to $51,190.
Generally, the employers were cited for not protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 because the employers did not appropriately update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the coronavirus. Cal/OSHA provided some additional details about the conduct leading to some of the citations:
Just a week after announcing these 11 violations, Cal/OSHA announced that it had issued citations and significant proposed penalties to another food processing facility and a temporary staffing company, which provided employees to the food processing facility. Cal/OSHA issued $214,080 in proposed penalties to the temporary staffing company and $222,075 in proposed penalties to the food processing facility. Cal/OSHA provided some detail about the conduct giving rise to the citations:
Cal/OSHA has been very active in investigating employers and responding to employer questions. For example, Cal/OSHA conducted nearly 8,000 compliance assistance visits in July and engaged with more than 400,000 businesses through outreach and education efforts to address questions. While the citations summarized above are the first COVID-19 related citations Cal/OSHA has issued, they will not be the last.
Cal/OSHA has provided extensive COVID-19 related guidance for employers. Employers should review these materials and ensure they are updating their Injury and Illness Prevention Program, training employees about the risks associated with COVID-19, and documenting such training. Employers should also monitor and enforce their COVID-19 procedures.