— Casey's Restaurant in Klamath Falls continues to fall far short of workplace safety standards designed to protect employees from the coronavirus disease, as more complaints and a public health referral have prompted another formal enforcement action by Oregon OSHA.
The division has cited the restaurant $27,660 following an inspection that found the employer committed four violations of on-the-job safety standards. In one of the infractions, Casey's Restaurant willfully continued to potentially expose workers to the virus, despite a public health order limiting the capacity of indoor dining to zero in an “extreme risk" county.
It is the second time the business has been cited for failing to take steps to protect workers against the pandemic. In December 2020, Oregon OSHA, following a complaint-based inspection, issued an $8,900 citation to Casey's Restaurant for willfully allowing on-site dining, despite a public health order meant to curb transmission of the virus.
“Since the pandemic began, we have focused our efforts on engaging and educating employers about expectations. In the vast majority of cases, we have not had to conduct formal enforcement visits, because most employers are choosing to do the right thing," said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “They are doing so because they know they are making meaningful contributions as part of a larger and multi-faceted community effort to end this pandemic sooner rather than later.
“Yet, a critical part of Oregon OSHA's longstanding mission is to enforce workplace health and safety standards," Wood added. “And we will continue to fulfill that mission when employers refuse to address credible complaints or continue to insist on ignoring reasonable safeguards for their employees."
The citation issued to Casey's earlier this month resulted from an inspection prompted by complaints and a referral from Klamath County Public Health.
Oregon OSHA's inspection documented the fact that the restaurant, operating in Klamath County, willfully began allowing indoor dining on Dec. 17, 2020, and, with the exception of Dec. 25, continued to do so through Feb. 11, 2021.
The business did so despite the fact that Klamath County, during that time period, was designated an “extreme risk" for the spread of COVID-19.
Using his discretionary authority under state law, Wood imposed a $26,700 penalty for the willful violation. That is three times the minimum penalty for such a violation. The decision reflects the need to ensure a more appropriate deterrent effect where employers insist on disregarding health and safety standards.
Such willful behavior puts employees at risk and enables the employer to achieve a competitive advantage over businesses that comply with the requirements.
Altogether, Oregon OSHA cited four violations – three of them under the division's
temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace:
- In allowing indoor dining, Casey's Restaurant knowingly chose to disregard capacity limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for such establishments in a county designated as
extreme risk. It was a willful violation, carrying a discretionary penalty of $26,700.
- The business failed to conduct any COVID-19 risk assessment to identify potential employee exposure to the virus and address how to reduce such exposure. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $490.
- The business did not develop and implement an infection control plan. Such a plan could include redesigning the workspace to enable physical distancing and reducing the use of shared surfaces and tools. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $350.
- The employer did not establish and run an effective safety committee. Safety committees enable workers to regularly participate in addressing potential on-the-job hazards, including discussing such concerns with managers. It was a serious violation, carrying a penalty of $120.
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 while a county is at extreme risk, but the county's risk level drops before the citation is issued, the citation will still be issued. The change in risk levels may affect how the violation needs to be corrected, but not whether it is cited.
Employers have 30 days to appeal citations. The citation issued to Casey's Restaurant in December 2020 remains on appeal.
In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of
consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19.