A recent report released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveals that many companies fall short in training and protecting employees with the right equipment. These violations are happening at a time when the entire world is struggling to fend off a highly contagious virus.
While the infractions cited in the OSHA report come from healthcare facilities and meatpacking plants, they are good examples of the same deficiencies that may be identified on construction sites. Companies must be cognizant of following all OSHA guidelines to avoid violations, which can be costly and affect client relationships.
OSHA continues to crack down with more in-person inspections on contractors exposing their employees to unsafe conditions. Now is not the time to slack on identifying potential worksite hazards and addressing them. Ensure all employees have the appropriate training in respiratory equipment and any other equipment required to protect their health.
Having a history of OSHA violations on record can tarnish your business’ reputation. Potential clients will review that record and may be hesitant to enter into a relationship with a contractor cited multiple times for safety violations.
OSHA has created guidance to help employers protect their workers and ensure compliance with agency rules. The agency compiled a list of the most commonly cited violations:
- Not providing a medical evaluation before each worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.
- Failing to perform the appropriate fit test for any workers using tight–fitting respirators.
- Failing to assess the worksite to determine if COVID-19 hazards are present or may be present, which means requiring the use of a respirator or other personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Failing to establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures.
- Not providing an appropriate respirator or other PPE to each employee when necessary to protect the employees’ health (ensuring the respirator or PPE used is the correct type and size).
- Failing to train workers to safely use respirators or other PPE in the workplace and retrain workers about workplace changes that might make previous training obsolete.
- Failing to store respirators and other PPE properly in a way that protects them from damage, contamination, and, where applicable, deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve.
- Failing to report any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident or report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours of finding out about it.
- Not keeping required records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illness.
OSHA offers employers a free On-Site Consultation Program. This program addresses confidential occupational safety and health services for small- and medium-sized businesses. OSHA provides the program in all 50 states, in the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories. Consultants from various universities and state agencies work with companies to identify workplace hazards, offer advice on OSHA standards, and help businesses improve their health and safety programs.
Know that penalties are high when OSHA issues citations. The agency increased its penalties by nearly 80% in 2016 and have been steadily increasing the rates each year since, making the maximum penalty for a serious violation $13,494. Willful or repeat offenses can cost up to $134,937 per violation.
If a company does receive a serious citation, it should not rush into an informal OSHA conference without first reviewing potential legal defenses. That option may sound good on the surface but could cost plenty in the long run.
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.