OSHA to begin on-site spot checks for COVID compliance

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) will begin checking on businesses to ensure employers are complying with requirements outlined in Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, according to a press release sent by the Oregon Dept. of Consumer and Business Services.

Oregon OSHA will focus on checking on businesses that people have submitted complaints about, according to the press release. The complaints are regarding failures to comply with social-distancing measures and orders to close all non-essential businesses.

The spot checks are meant to confirm that employers are actually doing what they are telling the OSHA they are doing in response to complaints. The press release said Oregon OSHA will focus on more recent complaints and complaints that provide specific allegations.

“This approach will allow us to verify the responses to complaints that we’ve received so far from employers while focusing our enforcement resources on those employers most likely to be in continued non-compliance,” Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA, said.

Oregon OSHA received 2,887 complaints from March 2 through April 12 related to the coronavirus, according to the release.

Spot checks are meant to verify what employers are telling the division without requiring a formal inspection process, which takes more time and resources.

The full press release is available below.


 

Ramping up its enforcement activity, Oregon OSHA will begin systematically conducting spot checks to verify that employers are complying with requirements – including closures to the public – aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

The spot checks – which are in addition to more time-intensive, on-site inspections initiated by the division – are intended to confirm whether employers are actually doing what they are telling the division they are doing in response to complaints.

Those complaints include allegations of failures to heed the requirements included in Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, including certain businesses that must close to the public and others that are required to implement proper social-distancing practices.

As it moves forward, Oregon OSHA will also focus its enforcement activity on more recent complaints, and on those that provide specific allegations, as well as include contact information for the complainant. The division can protect a complainant’s confidentiality on request – a legal shield against an employer obtaining a complainant’s identity – while still being able to engage with the complainant.

“This approach will allow us to verify the responses to complaints that we’ve received so far from employers while focusing our enforcement resources on those employers most likely to be in continued non-compliance,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA.

Recent analysis suggests Oregon’s collective efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus are working.

As reported by the Oregon Health Authority, new projections from health researchers estimate that Oregon’s aggressive social distancing measures have prevented as many as 18,000 cases of COVID-19 and 500 hospitalizations. However, these restrictions must be maintained into May to prevent new cases from rising above current daily levels of active coronavirus cases.

The responsibility for prevention includes certain employers staying closed to the public, and employers who remain open maintaining social-distancing and other safe practices.

Tasked with enforcing the order with respect to employers and worker exposure, Oregon OSHA continues to screen complaints, initiate inspections, and consider additional inspection candidates.

From March 2 through April 12, the division received 2,887 complaints related to the coronavirus. More than 1,200 of those came during the week of March 23, when the governor’s executive order was issued. Since April 6, the number of complaints has noticeably tapered off. The division typically receives just over 2,000 complaints per year.

In screening complaints, Oregon OSHA’s work has included clarifying employers’ responsibilities under the governor’s order and asking employers to specifically respond to the allegations outlined in complaints.

So far, the division has opened a dozen on-site inspections. The opening and closing of an inspection – and a decision whether to issue a citation – can take several weeks, depending on the specifics of a case. The division is working to accelerate that process.

The division may conduct on-site inspections for a variety of reasons, including whether it determines an employer’s response to the complaints may not be credible. Responses include phone calls and written documentation. The formal introduction of systematic spot checks – about two dozen of which have been conducted previously on a less formal basis – is aimed at verifying what employers are telling the division about their actions without requiring the more resource-intensive formal inspection process.

For more information about Oregon OSHA workplace guidance and resources related to the coronavirus outbreak, visit https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/re/covid-19.aspx

To understand Oregon OSHA’s scope of activity in relation to the governor’s order, the order’s requirements in that context, and a list of the types of businesses that must close to the public, visit: https://osha.oregon.gov/Documents/COVID-19-scope-for-Oregon-OSHA.pdf

FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

Join the Conversation

Top Local Stories

  541.749.5151

co-daily