Cal/OSHA Issues First Coronavirus-Related Citations
California's Occupational Safety and Health Agency has issued citations to multiple employers for COVID-19 violations.
Cal/OSHA has cited 11 employers for not protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure, according to a press release. The citations were handed down to companies in the food processing, meat packing, health care, agriculture and retail industries with penalties ranging from $2,025 to $51,190.
Employers were cited for not protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 because they did not take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus. The inspections were opened after Cal/OSHA was notified of series illnesses, complaints of workplace hazards and after proactive joint enforcement efforts.
“We have identified these industries as priorities in our strategic enforcement efforts to make sure employers have adequate COVID-19 infection prevention procedures in place,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “These are industries where workers have been disproportionately affected, and these citations are the first of many to be issued in the coming weeks and months.”
The company to receive the highest penalty of $51,190 was DL Poultry, Inc., a Monterery Park food processing facility. Cal/OSHA says the company put their workers at risk for serious illness because they did not ensure employees were physically distanced at least six feet apart in the processing area, nor did they install Plexiglas or other barriers between workers. The inspection at this facility came after a complaint of workplace hazards.
Six of the 11 citations were handed down to companies in the agriculture industry. The agricultural employers cited were inspected in July as part of California Governor Newsom’s multi-agency strategic enforcement taskforce to address COVID-19 hazards. Several of these employers were also cited for failure to protect their workers from heat illness.
Cal/OSHA also conducted almost 8,000 compliance assistance visits in July to identify and correct issues on the spot, and engaged with more than 400,000 businesses as part of an ongoing outreach and education effort that has included emails and conference calls with trade associations, employer groups, employers, labor and other stakeholders. Cal/OSHA is also providing live, online training for employers in the agriculture, meatpacking and food processing sectors.
Cal/OSHA has created guidance for many industries in multiple languages including videos, daily checklists and detailed guidelines on how to protect workers from the virus. This guidance is meant to provide a roadmap for employers on their existing obligations to protect workers from COVID-19.