Tag Archives: Workplace Safety

Businesses Ignoring Pandemic Closure Orders can be Cited and Fined

Washington businesses ignoring pandemic closure orders and deciding to open or operate in direct violation of Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order may be cited and fined for unsafe workplace conditions under emergency rules filed May 26, 2020 by the state Department of Labor and Industries (DLI).

The closure order and the Safe Start Plan to reopen businesses are in place to keep workers and the public safe and to prevent the spread of the easily transmissible coronavirus.

The emergency rules, enacted at the direction of the Governor, take effect immediately. They give DLI the authority to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is purposely defying the phased-in approach and, as a result, putting their workers at risk.

“We’re all in this together, and most businesses are doing the right thing for our state and our communities. Unfortunately, there are some that are choosing not to,” said DLI Director Joel Sacks. “The coronavirus is a known workplace hazard and businesses must follow the requirements to keep their workers and the public safe.”

Protecting worker safety and ensuring a level playing field

DLI will work with the state Emergency Operations Center to take in and respond to complaints about businesses ignoring pandemic closure orders and operating illegally. If employers are found to be defying the Governor’s order, they’ll be informed and directed to close or adjust operations immediately. If they do not, they’ll face a workplace safety citation that could carry a fine of nearly $10,000 or more.

Along with contacting businesses by phone and in writing, DLI will perform in-person spot checks on some of the businesses to make sure they are following through and complying with the Safe Start requirements. It’s not fair to employers who are following the law when other businesses defy it. DLI’s role will complement efforts by the Liquor and Cannabis Board and other state licensing and permitting agencies.

Stay informed

The nature of the outbreak changes daily so it’s important for everyone to have the most current information. DLI has a COVID-19 webpage, and there’s important information on the state Coronavirus Response (COVID-19) site. There’s also an online form for people to report suspected violations of the Governor’s orders regarding essential business functions, evictions, and social distancing.

Information is the best resource to protect workers and the public. DLI urges employers to stay as informed as possible, and to take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.

Prior Posts on Related Topics

OSHA’s Top 10 Violations for 2018 revealed at National Safety Council Congress and Expo

Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr., from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

Today’s post comes from our colleagues at WorkersCompensation.com

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the preliminary Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2018. Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, presented the Top 10 on the Expo floor as part of the 2018 NSC Congress and Expo, the world’s largest annual gathering of safety professionals.

While the rankings for OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations vary little from year to year, violation No. 10 on this year’s list, “Eye and Face Protection” (1926.102), was not on the 2017 list.

“Knowing how workers are hurt can go a long way toward keeping them safe,” said National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. “The OSHA Top 10 list calls out areas that require increased vigilance to ensure everyone goes home safely each day.”

The Top 10 for FY 2018* are:

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501)

7,270

2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)

4,552

3. Scaffolding (1926.451)

3,336

4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)

3,118

5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)

2,944

6. Ladders (1926.1053)

2,812

7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)

2,294

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503)

1,982

9. Machine Guarding (1910.212)

1,972

10. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102)

1,536

A more in-depth look at the Top 10 violations for 2018 will be published in the December edition of the Council’s Safety+Health magazine.

*Preliminary figures as of Oct. 1, 2018

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council (nsc.org) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.

Safety Violations Matter: Wisconsin Court Reaffirms Basis for Employer Safety Penalties

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

The extra penalty for employers that ignore safety rules is something not available to injured workers in Washington State, but it is an interesting concept that provides real incentives for safe workplaces.

In most instances, an injured worker cannot sue her employer for a workplace injury. However, if an injury results from an employer’s reckless, intentional, or illegal action, an injured worker can bring a separate claim against the employer directly. An employer’s violation of the Wisconsin state safety statute  or of any Department of Workforce Development (DWD) safety administrative rule which causes a worker’s injury can trigger a 15% increased penalty for the employer (Section 102.57 of the Worker’s Compensation Act). This increased compensation is based on the amount of compenstion paid by the insurance carrier and is capped at $15,000. The big deal is that the safety violation penalty is not paid by the insurance company–it is paid directly from the employer’s pocket (which also makes for increased litigation of these claims!).;

In a win for injured workers, a recent Court of Appeals case (Sohn Manufacturing v. LIRC), decided on August 7, 2013, reaffirmed the ability of the Worker’s Compensation Department to hold employers responsible for unsafe behavior. In the Sohn case, the worker operated a die cutter machine, and the employer instructed her to clean it while the anvil rollers were running. The worker suffered a severe hand injury when her hand was pulled into the machine. A state investigator found an OSHA violation as well as a violation of the state safety statute (Section 101.11). An administrative law judge and the Labor and Industry Review Commission affirmed an award of a safety violation under 102.57 of the worker’s compensation act.

The employer challenged this ruling in court, arguing that the federal OSHA law preempted Wisconsin’s ability to enforce safety procedures under Section 102.57 and that an OSHA investigation cannot form the basis for a state safety violation claim injured workers should be thankful that the Court of Appeals rejected both of these arguments. First, the Court explicitly stated that OSHA does not preempt Wisconsin’s ability to award penalties under Section 102.57, as the safety violation statute is not an enforcement mechanism and OSHA was not intended to impact state worker’s compensation rules. More importantly, the Court indicated that an OSHA violation of a federal workplace safety regulation can be used as basis to demonstrate an employer’s violation of Wisconsin’s state safety statute (Section 101.11).

While the decision was not surprising, it reaffirms the state’s commitment to holding employer’s accountable for safety violation rules under the worker’s compensation system. Workers and practitioners also should remain aware of any OSHA violation found post-injury. A document demonstrating a federal OSHA violation can form the immediate basis for a safety violation under Section 102.57.