PANDEMIC POLICE ON PATROL « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Cal/OSHA Hitting Employers Statewide for COVID-19 Non-Compliance

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA has gone from bark – its July 16 notice calling on all employers to carefully review and follow the state’s COVID-19 workplace safety and health guidance– to bite.

In two press releases, September 4 and September 9, the agency has identified 13 employers up and down the state, including  manufacturers, retailers and a health care provider, that it has recently cited for a collective $500,000-plus in penalties for failing to provide adequate worker pandemic protection. The largest alleged offenders include a Vernon frozen food plant and its temporary employment agency, each tapped for over $200,000.

Cal/OSHA claims to have found hundreds of that plant’s employees “exposed to serious illness from COVID-19” due to the lack of physical distancing procedures among workers including where they clock in and out of their shifts, at the cart where they put on gloves and coats, in the break room, on the conveyor line and during packing operations.

The agency also charges the plant put workers at risk of exposure by failing to train employees to investigate any of the more than 20 COVID-19 illnesses and one related death Cal/OSHA claims to have uncovered.

Cal/OSHA clearly aims by these broad announcements to motivate greater compliance with its multi-industry guidelines and use of its multiple language educational materials as means to hasten full defeat of the virus.

“It is critical that employers evaluate the workplace and take proactive measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “If a COVID-19 illness occurs, employers must investigate the case to determine if additional protective measures should be taken and report the serious illnesses and deaths to Cal/OSHA. Employers should also notify workers of possible exposure and report outbreaks to county public health officials.”

While sounding the alarm on alleged violators, the agency provides live, online training for employers in the agricultural, meatpacking and food processing sectors as well as direct liaison with managers and workers alike through its Consultation Services Branch, (800) 963-9424.

It should of course not take government enforcement actions to encourage any employer to adopt sound pandemic-related workplace protocols as part of its state-mandated “Injury and Illness Prevention Plan” (IIPP). We are assisting management regularly in the process.

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For more information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Tim Bowles

September 10, 2020