Updated: Aug 11, 2021
With Douglas L. Parker nominated to lead Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), businesses can expect California standards for OSHA to become nationalized. In his current role as Chief of California OSHA, workplaces in that state have seen the strictest regulations of any state in the country since the creation of the California Emergency Temporary Standards in November.
Under Mr. Parker, Cal/OSHA produced exhaustive regulations regarding reporting requirements, management of outbreaks, the investigation of possible outbreaks, and other particular events. One of the most onerous aspects of this Cal/OSHA legislation included the rigorous documentation requirement for symptom monitoring related to Covid-19. Companies that had been relying on paper questionnaires and Google Docs for this requirement were suddenly pressured to consider more sophisticated electronic records in anticipation of regulatory inspections.
The spectre of fines in California for Covid-19 related infractions is not new. However, last September, Overhill Farms Inc and related Jobsource North America Inc were collectively fined over $400000 for "failing to protect hundreds of workers from Covid-19 in Vernon." Among the specific citations were lack of physical distancing between workers that may have led to many cases.
Other citations were less predictable and concern all businesses who need to prepare for potential inspections. These citations included failure to communicate Covid-19 hazards to workers and failure to investigate certain Covid-19 cases.
Even though Mr. Parker has not taken his federal office yet, signs of a change from previous White House Administration have already surfaced. Liberty Tax Service of Lynn, MA was recently fined $136,532 after a determination of negligible Covid-19 practices in the workplace regarding masking, ventilation, and inadequate barriers. Not being in an industrial or food service industry, this type of business was not predicted to be an early victim of a major regulatory action.
Naturally, the safety and health of all individuals in the workplace should always be considered first. A new era of Covid-19 regulations that will encompass documentation, reporting, and extensive monitoring is about to start from the pulpit of the federal government. All organizations need to prepare for this oversight or suffer from potential punitive fines and damaging litigation.