Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA has fined Forage Coffee Company LLC in Medford $9,250 for three violations of on-the-job safety standards meant to protect workers from the coronavirus disease. In one violation – committed willfully – the business potentially exposed employees to the virus by allowing indoor dining, despite requirements that such capacity be kept to zero to curb transmission of the disease.
The company also came up short in implementing two other safety measures that help reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace: facial coverings and physical distancing.
“Most employers in Oregon continue to move forward with efforts to protect workers against the very real hazard of COVID-19. They understand the measures needed to help defeat this disease," said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA. “Unfortunately, there are those employers who are making a different choice. As a result, we will continue to carry out our enforcement work in the interest of accountability."
Oregon OSHA initiated its inspection of Forage Coffee in response to multiple complaints about the business. The inspection's findings included that the company knowingly allowed indoor dining beginning on or about Nov. 18, 2020, and continuing through Nov. 27, 2020. The company did so during a statewide two-week freeze aimed at limiting group activities to reduce the spread of the virus. The freeze allowed takeout only.
During the inspection, Jacob Terando, an owner of Forage Coffee, said customers entering the establishment knew of the restriction against indoor dining, but that he was leaving it up to them to decide.
Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited three violations of the division's
temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace:
- In allowing indoor dining, Forage Coffee knowingly chose to disregard limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to keep such capacity at zero during a statewide two-week freeze. It was a willful violation, carrying a penalty of $8,900.
- The company did not follow OHA requirements to ensure all employees and customers (older than age 5 and not eating or drinking) wore a source control device, such as a mask, face covering, or face shield. The failure potentially exposed employees to COVID-19. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $175.
- The company did not ensure that both work activities and workflow were designed to eliminate the need for employees to do their job within six feet of another person. The failure to uphold six-foot physical distancing requirements potentially exposed workers to the virus. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $175.
Ongoing refusals to correct violations and come into compliance with workplace health and safety standards can lead to additional higher penalties. Meanwhile, if an Oregon OSHA inspection documents violations during a time when certain restrictions are in place, but those restrictions are eased before the citation is issued, the citation will still be issued. The change may affect how the violation needs to be corrected, but not whether it is cited.
Employers have 30 days to appeal citations.
In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of
consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19.