No company wants to be hit with an OSHA citation. Now, in addition to the most frequently cited standards – including fall protection, hazard communication, and scaffolding – employers have another issue to worry about: COVID-19 safety.
OSHA’s maximum penalties are adjusted annually for inflation. After January 15, 2020, the maximum penalties are as follows:
- $13,494 per violation for serious violations
- $13,494 per day after the abatement date for failure to abate
- $13,937 per violation for willful or repeated violations
When a company is faced with multiple violations or daily penalties, it’s easy to see how these costs can add up quickly.
There may be other consequences, as well. For example, according to Construction Dive, Phillip Russell, an attorney at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, & Stewart, has said that “Willful or repeat or even certain kind of serious violations can inhibit a construction company’s ability to get work.”
As of November 12, 2020, OSHA has issued 232 citations related to COVID-19. The proposed penalties from these violations total $3,148,452.
The violations include the following:
- A failure to implement a written respiratory protection program
- A failure to provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, or training on the proper use of a respirator and personal protective equipment
- Failure to report an injury, illness, or fatality
- Failure to record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms
- Failure to comply with the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act
Business Insurance reports that recent fines have ranged from as low as $1,928 to as high as $32,965. It’s also important to note that at least one citation has been withdrawn because the employer was able to provide evidence of a good faith attempt at compliance.
Keeping up with OSHA Requirements and Safety Recommendations
The pandemic has resulted in significant changes in a short period of time, so it’s not surprising that some companies are having a hard time keeping up with the requirements and best practices. However, as the rising number of both infections and OSHA violations proves, diligence is key.
The following resources can help employers stay safe and compliant:
- OSHA maintains a list of COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions. This page includes information on liability waivers, personal protective equipment, training, and other key issues.
- Employers must comply with OSHA reporting requirements. This includes reporting hospitalizations and fatalities. Employers must report deaths related to work-related incidents within eight hours of learning about them.
- The CDC also provides guidance for employers regarding COVID-19.
This is an ongoing and developing situation. Requirements and guidance may change, so it is important to review the information regularly and update practices as needed. As always, it’s also important to maintain thorough documentation of all compliance efforts. Talk to a Heffernan agent to learn more about COVID-19 related OSHA risk management strategies.