In case you missed it, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a news release on June 17, and updated the release on June 24, 2021, announcing the availability of $21 million in grants for training on workplace hazards and infectious diseases, specific for non-profit organizations as part of the American Rescue Plan.
Although these grants are great opportunities, the DOL is also ramping up its’ oversight capacity. As part of the DOL’s FY2022 Budget Brief, the Biden Administration is requesting to increase OSHA’s federal enforcement and whistleblower investigative support to conduct complaint and incident investigations as well as increasing educational support opportunities.
What Are Some Key Request Increases in the Budget?
- An approximate $10 Million funding request increase (30 FTEs) for safety and health standards rulemaking and guidance
- An approximate $19.8 Million funding request increase (207 FTEs) to strengthen OSHA’s enforcement program, which doubles the number of OSHA inspectors.
- An approximate $5.3 Million funding request increase (63 FTEs) to strengthen OSHA’s whistleblower enforcement program.
This is important as OSHA has been releasing investigative findings at a higher pace than prior years. Here are a few recent investigative news releases with proposed fines.
On June 15, 2021 OSHA cited an owner-operated of four Rhode Island medical facilities for failing to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus. Six employees tested positive for the virus due to non-compliance with implementing proper safety standards. Upon investigation, the agency determined the owner continued to interact with workers while eliciting symptoms of the virus and later testing positive.
What are the results of the investigation?
“The owner and his companies face a proposed fine of $136,532 for failing to:
- Implement engineering controls, such as portable high-efficiency particulate air fan/filtration systems, and barriers between adjacent desks.
- Implement administrative controls, such as cleaning and disinfecting, and symptom screening of all employees.
- Mandate contact tracing or quarantine periods after employee exposure to coronavirus-exposed patients.”
The owner has 15 business days to come into compliance or request an informal conference with OSHA.
On June 30, 2021, two facilities in New Jersey were cited following an outbreak of coronavirus in March 2021 that led to the death of two workers. OSHA determined that the company did not develop and implement timely and effective measures to mitigate the spread of the virus following outbreaks. The company failed to identify and isolate clients suspected of having the coronavirus who resided in its group homes and did not adequately inform staff who worked with these clients about the associated risks, resulting in the two deaths and proposed penalties of $27,306. The OSHA Area Director stated, “Employers in the healthcare and long-term care industries have an obligation to ensure effective safeguards and controls are in place to protect employees, patients and others from infection and further spread of the coronavirus.”
What were the root causes?
“OSHA discovered that the company failed to:
- Develop and implement a respiratory protection program.
- Provide NIOSH-certified respirators to employees who provided care to confirmed coronavirus positive clients.
- Provide workers with fit tests or medical evaluations to ensure effective use of the required respirators.
- Provide effective training on the use, cleaning, and storage of a respirator.”
On June 10, 2021, OSHA cited a biopharma manufacturer for non-compliance with social distancing and mask-wearing in the workplace resulting in 30 out of 50 employees testing positive, four hospitalizations, and two deaths. The OSHA inspection found the employer failed to ensure employees wore face masks in common areas, such as in the locker, gowning, and break room areas. Although controls were in place on the work floor, non-compliance with maintaining standards in common areas contributing to employee deaths. The proposed fines are $13,653.
How Can LW Consulting, Inc. Help?
LW Consulting, Inc’s experts can assist and provide training to your community on any of the areas listed above. Visit our OSHA Grants page to learn more.
For more information, contact Deborah Alexander at 717-213-3122 or email DAlexander@LW-Consult.com.