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February 05, 2021
Cal/OSHA cites employers for COVID-19 violations

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) continues to cite multiple employers for safety and health violations related to workplace COVID-19 exposures.

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California, like Michigan and Oregon, has an emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19; Virginia has a permanent COVID-19 infectious disease standard; and on January 21, President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to consider establishing a federal standard.

Employers cited by Cal/OSHA include Avenal and San Quinten State Prisons, healthcare facilities like Kaiser Permanente centers in Antioch and San Leandro, and grocery and children’s clothing stores.

The state agency proposed penalties totaling $421,880 for violations found during an inspection of San Quentin State Prison and $39,600 for violations at Avenal State Prison. Cal/OSHA initiated inspections at the San Quentin and Avenal prisons after reports of hospitalizations of staff following outbreaks at the facilities.

The agency determined that staff at San Quentin were not provided with adequate training or equipment for working with COVID-19-infected individuals, and employees who had been exposed to COVID-19-positive inmates were not provided with proper medical services, including testing, contact tracing, and referrals to physicians. Cal/OSHA issued citations for four willful-serious, five serious, one regulatory, and four general violations, including failure to institute an effective aerosol transmissible diseases (ATDs) control exposure plan.

California has a permanent ATD standard that applies to correctional facilities, as well as healthcare facilities, and emergency services.

Avenal State Prison was cited for three serious violations after Cal/OSHA found that it failed to maintain an effective written ATD program, had an inadequate written respiratory protection plan, and failed to implement and/or enforce work practice controls to minimize employees’ COVID-19 exposures.

Cal/OSHA opened inspections at several healthcare facilities following reports of serious COVID-19-related illnesses at the Kaiser Permanente medical centers in San Leandro, Antioch, and Walnut Creek and Burlingame-based Mills-Peninsula Medical Center and opened an inspection in response to a complaint at Fairfield-based NorthBay Medical Center. Cal/OSHA found multiple deficiencies in the ATD and respiratory protection programs at the facilities and cited them for serious and regulatory violations. The agency also found that the facilities failed to immediately report serious COVID-19-related illnesses.

The agency also issued citations for multiple serious violations of the ATD standard at four skilled nursing centers after Cal/OSHA found that the facilities exposed their employees to COVID-19 infection.

Cal/OSHA cited Cardenas Market in Oakland for multiple violations, including three serious violations, following an inspection opened after learning from media coverage of an outbreak in which 17 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in May 2020. Cardenas Market did not initially implement or require face coverings or masks or physical distancing or provide training of workers about coronavirus hazards. Cardenas Market also failed to report a COVID-19-related illness that required hospitalization.

Cal/OSHA also cited Carter's Children's Wear of Gilroy for one regulatory and one serious citation following a COVID-19 accident inspection. The agency found that Carter’s failed to report a COVID-19-related serious illness and failed to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). California’s unique IIPP standard (there is no corresponding federal standard) requires employers in the state to assess hazards in their workplace and establish a written safety and health management program.

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