OSHA Citing Employers for COVID Related Illness and Death

A national auto insurance company is facing $23,406 in proposed penalties after investigators found that a Colorado branch ignored pandemic-related safety rules and "needlessly exposed" employees to co-workers with COVID-19 symptoms, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA initiated an investigation on April 21 after receiving a complaint about unsafe working conditions and an employee's COVID-19-related death. "This company showed an indifference toward the safety and well-being of its employees, including one who fell victim to the coronavirus," said OSHA Denver Area Director Amanda Kupper.

OSHA has issued about 650 coronavirus-related citations since July 2020, with total initial penalties exceeding $4 million as of Oct. 1, according to the agency.

COVID-19 Litigation Continues

It is reported there were 3,784 COVID-19-related lawsuits filed against employers between March 12, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021. That number includes 356 class actions. The states with the most filings are California, New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Ohio. Industries with the most filings include health care, manufacturing, public administration, retail, and hospitality. Question now is what are employers doing to minimize such risk and exposure?

OSHA Recommends Multilayered Approach to Workplace Safety

The OSHA edit is that employers must provide a safe and healthful workplace that is free from known hazards. According to OSHA, the coronavirus spreads mainly among unvaccinated people who are in close contact with one another, particularly when they are indoors and where ventilation is poor.

"Vaccination is the key element in a multilayered approach to protect workers," OSHA said. "Multilayered controls tailored to your workplace are especially important for those workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at risk."

COVID-19 prevention programs generally include telework options and flexible scheduling, engineering controls (such as proper ventilation), vaccination and other safety policies, requirements for wearing personal protective equipment and face coverings, physical distancing measures, and enhanced cleaning programs according to OSHA.

OSHA Expected to Issue COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Rules
Businesses with at least 100 employees will soon be required to mandate that employees get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing. Employers are still waiting for OSHA to issue a second ETS following its June 1, 2021 ETS that applies only to the health care industry.

Some key questions have yet to be answered, but employers should start preparing now.

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