On April 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor published a News Release regarding investigative findings that resulted in $136,532 in penalties as a result of an on-site OSHA inspection.
The investigation was triggered by a referral from the Division of Labor Standards of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development stating that on or around February 9, 2021 through March 29, 2021 and thereafter, Liberty Tax Services did not develop and implement timely and effective measures to mitigate the spread of CCOVID-19. In the past year, small healthcare providers have experienced similar struggles as this tax preparer in Massachusetts when having to implement administrative and engineering controls within the treatment office. The summary of the citation, findings, corrective actions, and penalty payment instructions is a worthwhile 5-minute read.
What Were the Violation Highlights?
- The type of violation is listed as “Willful – Serious,” stating the employer does not furnish a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause death or physical harm to employees, in that employees working in close proximity to each other and customers are exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Employees were working within 6 feet of each other, not wearing face coverings.
- The employer prohibited employees and customers from wearing face coverings.
- The employer did not implement administrative and engineering controls, such as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting; pre-shift screening, social distancing, physical barriers, mechanical ventilation, etc.
What Information is Provided in an OSHA Citation?
- Instructions in requesting an informal conference to discuss the inspection findings with a “Right to Contest” within 15 working days.
- The investigative findings and penalty calculations.
- Penalty payment instructions with penalties over $25,000 requiring a transaction ID and payment through an Automated Clearing House (ACH).
- Notification of Corrective Action for each violation not being contested must provide abatement certification to the Area Director of the OSHA office issuing the citation within 10 calendar days.
- The abatement certification MUST be posted at the location of the violation and the corrective action or employees MUST be informed of the abatement.
- Evidence MUST be provided of the abatement, which may include new equipment, photographs, receipts, training records, etc.
- Employer discrimination unlawful reminders, in particular, against an employee filing a complaint.
- Inspection activity data reminder that OSHA makes public information on inspections and citation activity.
What Are Some Key Corrective Actions Listed?
- Conduct a hazard assessment specific to COVID-19. Although many restrictions are being lifted, some businesses are still required to have staff and visitors utilize facial coverings. For example, having a Respiratory Protection Program in place was an OSHA requirement prior to the PHE.
- Establish, implement, and update your written COVID-19 program based upon your hazards risk assessment, and train your staff to ensure compliance with the CDC, OSHA, and state.
- Implement engineering controls, such as transparent impermeable barriers or ventilation improvements based upon your hazards risk assessment.
How Can LW Consulting, Inc. Help?
- LW Consulting, Inc. (LWCI) sells a customizable OSHA Environmental, Health, and Safety Compliance Manual with policies, procedures, visual training, physical aids, and a COVID-19 plan designed to establish your organization’s commitment to fostering a safe work environment per the Federal and State OSHA standards.
- LWCI consultants can conduct mock surveys which include an infection control focus.
- LWCI has experts that are certified Infection Preventionists and have been on-site serving in these roles during the Public Health Emergency (PHE), possessing first-hand response experience.
- LWCI consultants can assist clients with Corrective Action Development and Mitigation Response.
To learn more about how LWCI can help you, set up a 15-minute discussion with one of our experts, Deborah Alexander, Director, CHC, CHPC, PMP, DPT, MED, STC, CSCS.