Oregon OSHA Reports Sharp Rise in Workplace Complaints Following Statewide Stay-At-Home Order
On March 23, Gov. Kate Brown issued a statewide stay-at-home order requiring residents to remain home and for nonessential businesses to close. The construction industry was excluded from this order. Oregon OSHA received over one thousand COVID-19-related complaints over the course of the next week — more than the total number of complaints they receive in a six month period on average. Although the complaints came from a variety of sources, many were from the construction industry.
In this brief article, one of our Portland construction attorneys discusses the reason behind this sharp rise in complaints. We’ll also cover the challenges and responsibilities that Oregon employers face in this difficult time.
The Challenges of Social Distancing
As Willamette Week reports, complaints include accounts of workers from various trades working in close proximity to each other, workers sharing the same lift, and workers sitting together for lunch. An anonymous worker shared similar concerns, “”We call it ‘trade stacking,' where one trade is getting on top of another. And you've got guys who chew tobacco and spit everywhere or blow their noses with their thumbs because they are outside.” Overall, the complaints highlighted the difficulties of social distancing in an industry that is inherently collaborative.
Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order may see construction as an essential business; however, that does not mean that employers are excused from their responsibility to provide a safe, hazard-free workplace. Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19: Job Health, Safety Resources for Oregon Contractors affirms that “the order requires all businesses that continue to operate to follow social-distancing guidelines and to designate an employee or officer to enforce social-distancing policies consistent with guidance from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).” This resources page includes a number of requirements and recommendations that relate to:
- Worksite safety
- Worker responsibilities
- Social distancing
- Personal Protective Equipment
- And more
We encourage contractors to carefully review this resource page as well as our own COVID-19 Resources page for useful information. Consult a Portland construction attorney with any questions regarding social distancing requirements.
Making Safety a Priority
Oregon OSHA has and will be conducting surprise inspections and issuing penalties if violations are discovered. The safety of your workers must be made a priority during these uncertain times. Among the numerous steps that must be adhered to, you must follow social distancing guidelines as much as possible. Failure to do so could result in sick employees, an unsafe work environment, employees walking off the job, and a severe penalty from Oregon OSHA. If you are concerned that your jobsite does not align with Oregon OSHA’s requirements, consult a Portland construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.