Oregon OSHA Fines Lowe’s Stores More Than $35,000 for COVID-19 Violations
Salem, OR (WorkersCompensation.com) - Oregon OSHA has fined Lowe's Home Improvement stores in Redmond and Albany more than $35,000 for violating standards designed to protect workers from the coronavirus disease. Both sites potentially exposed employees to the disease by willfully failing to ensure that all customers inside the retail stores wore a mask, face covering, or face shield to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The citations, totaling $35,600 in fines, resulted from inspections of the Southwest Canal Boulevard and Ninth Avenue Southeast locations in Redmond and Albany, respectively. The inspections were initiated in response to multiple complaints.
Through employer and employee interviews, and an examination of records, the inspections determined supervisors at the stores were fully aware of the requirement to ensure customer use of facial coverings and yet intentionally decided against carrying out their responsibilities.
The stores' purposeful infractions illustrate failures to account for reasonable and established measures to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 through customer-to-employee transmission.
“It is not enough to leave the protection of employees in the hands of cooperative customers,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “As most employers recognize, they must take appropriate steps to ensure that the rules in place are actually followed. When an employer is not prepared to take such steps, we can and will use our enforcement tools to address the issue.”
Altogether, the inspections documented three violations of workplace health and safety standards at the Lowe's in Redmond and one at the store in Albany. The citations and penalties – all issued under Oregon OSHA's temporary rule addressing COVID-19 risks in the workplace – were as follows:
Both stores chose to disregard Oregon Health Authority requirements to ensure customers (older than age 5) who are inside the establishments wore a source control device, such as a mask, face covering, or face shield. Oregon OSHA issued willful citations, each carrying a $17,500 penalty.
The Redmond store was also cited for two serious violations. The employer did not develop and implement a complete risk assessment to identify potential employee exposure to the virus. The employer also failed to develop and implement an infection control plan. A penalty of $300 was imposed for each violation.
In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19. Those resources include an advisory memo, including best practices, for employer enforcement of facial-covering requirements. It is available in English and Spanish.
Employers have 30 days to appeal citations.
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