Oregon OSHA director: Agency to boost COVID-19 enforcement
More than three weeks after Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order that businesses must enforce social distancing, the state Occupational Safety and Health Division will step up enforcement, Administrator Michael Wood said Monday, April 13.
Early on, businesses were trying to understand the governor's order, and working on how to address employees concerns, Wood told the Portland Tribune. Now, however, the bar for citing businesses will be lower and "we will be more likely to pursue enforcement action," he said.
In early April, the Portland Tribune reported that the agency had received 2,747 complaints but issued zero citations for violating the governor's order or unsafe workplace rules. Agency offiicals at the time atributed the lack of enforcement action to it being early yet, but at the same time acknowledged that citations were not that likely.
Wood on Monday said the department was moving into more of an enforcement-oriented approach, with a systematic strategy to crack down on companies wilfully violating Brown's order or endangering employees. The plan is to prioritize new complaints, and especially those in which the person filing the complaint has included their identity and contact information. If the person requests confidentiality, that request will be honored, Wood said.
"We can protect someone's identity, but it really helps us to have their identity and a way to contact them," he said.
The agency has only carried out a small number of inspections so far — about a dozen. But Wood said that now, for the sake of efficiency, agency employees would make a practice of stopping by businesses to make "spot checks" to see if further inspection is needed.
On Friday, April 10, Wood said, he personally checked out six businesses on his own to see if they are complying with the law. Five of them looked to be, he said. But the sixth one — a combined furniture-appliance business —"is likely to get an inspection this week."
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