New Fines Push OSHA's Virus Penalties Over $1.2M

By Max Kutner
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Law360 (October 16, 2020, 4:33 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a new batch of COVID-19 sanctions Friday that pushes the total amount of virus-related fines the agency has levied against employers to over $1.2 million.

OSHA has now issued citations to 85 establishments since the pandemic started, 23 of them not previously announced, according to the agency. The sum of the proposed penalties is more than double the amount disclosed just two weeks ago.

The expanded list of fines is for violations such as failing to implement a written respiratory protection program, to provide a respirator fit test or training, or to report injuries or illnesses.

New York has the most establishments on the new list, with the highest proposed penalties in that state going to nursing facility Highland Care Center Inc. in Queens and kidney care facility Rogosin Institute Inc. in Brooklyn. They each face $23,133 in fines.

Nearly all of the establishments facing OSHA citations related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic have been nursing homes or medical facilities, with a few exceptions. All 23 establishments on the new list appear to be those types of facilities.

OSHA had initially faced criticism for an allegedly slow response to COVID-19-related complaints. The number of citations has picked up because the agency has up to six months to complete an inspection, a DOL spokesperson has previously told Law360, so the agency is now issuing citations for complaints from the early months of the pandemic.

But even by May, OSHA had received more than 4,500 complaints.

A DOL spokesperson was not immediately available to comment Friday. A spokesperson for the agency previously told Law360 in an email, "Employers are and will continue to be responsible for providing a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. OSHA has preexisting requirements and standards that not only remain in place and enforceable, but also apply to protecting workers from the coronavirus."

A representative for Highland Care Center Inc. was not immediately available for comment.

A spokesperson for Rogosin Institute declined to comment.

--Additional reporting by Braden Campbell. Editing by Jack Karp.

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