In the last year, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration arm has issued fines amounting to nearly $4 million for companies in violation of Covid-19 protocols.
According to a release issued by OSHA, those fines were the result of more than 300 inspections conducted by the agency, and related to a range of violations, including failure to have in place a written respiratory protection program at the worksite.
Companies were also fined for not providing medical evaluations for their employees, lacking working respirators, and failing to provide instructions on the proper uses of a respirator and/or personal protective equipment.
OSHA similarly handed out fines for companies failing to report an injury, illness or fatality related to the coronavirus, and more particularly for not recording injuries or illnesses on an official OSHA recordkeeping form.
The cumulative total of OSHA fines relating to Covid-19 were on the increase throughout 2020 as the stubborn pandemic persisted, increasing from just under $1 million in early October to $3.1 million by late November, and $3.5 million in mid-December.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, OSHA released a general guidance specific to the construction industry noting that employers should “remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability.”
Among the protocols consistently recommended to employers by OSHA have been the installation of physical barriers at the worksite; minimizing in-person meetings; ensuring good air flow in occupied buildings; and staggering work schedules in an effort to reduce the number of employees on a job site at any given time.
As of mid-January, OSHA has received just over 4,500 whistleblower complaints pertaining to Covid-19 violations in the workplace.
By Garry Boulard
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