As of May 26th, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt reported that there were 1,364 COVID-19 whistleblower complaints filed. Of those thousands of complaints, only one COVID-19 enforcement action had been issued. Either due to the backlash from failing to use their available tools to combat this pandemic or due to the continued spread of COVID-19, OSHA is now cracking down on construction firms across the country violating jobsite guidelines for coronavirus-related precautions.
In this article, we’ll review the cause of these enforcement cases, as well as how you can work to best protect your business with the help of a Florida construction attorney. For more information on how your company can place itself in a position for success during these unprecedented times, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.
What is the Cause of These OSHA Citations & Stop Work Orders?
In cities like Austin, TX, and New York City, NY, officials have spoken out about putting noncomplying contractors on notice. As the industry in Austin has been among one of the areas reporting the most COVID-19 outbreaks, it makes sense that they are willing to take employers with several violations of emergency rules to court or issue fines of up to $2,000. Likewise, officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are expected to first issue warnings before closing construction sites that refuse to comply with mask policies.
The reason behind this increase in citations and stop work orders can be attributed to more than simply an uptick in inspections. Andrew Rudanksy, press secretary for New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) which has issued 81 citations and 41 stop work orders throughout the city, says a major aspect of this enforcement can be linked to concerned citizens calling in about workers not following safety guidelines or work continuing at nonessential construction sites when it was prohibited during April and May. In addition to these concerns, officials have also expressed apprehension about construction workers bringing the virus back to their community.
Related: Legal Defenses for OSHA Citations
What We Can Learn From These Citations
An important thing to remember about these citations and stop work orders is that although it may feel that contractors are being directly targeted, the ultimate goal of these citations is to garner voluntary compliance. It is only in the event that the appropriate changes are not implemented that these officials must be forced to move forward, provide a citation or stop work order, and take these contractors to court.
Inspectors are looking for any instances in which jobsites are not in compliance with mandatory health and sanitation regulations, including social distancing, cleaning, and recordkeeping protocols. Some things to look out for that inspectors have issued citations for include:
- Too many employees riding hoists together
- Large groups of workers gathering together during toolbox meetings or at lunchtime
- Insufficient tracking of cleaning protocols
- Small spaces that force workers to be in close contact while entering or leaving a jobsite
Despite your best efforts, your jobsite still can and will be visited by OSHA compliance officers. By investing in OSHA defense provided by our team of Florida construction attorneys, you can better protect your business from costly OSHA citations.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.