Vigilant Blog

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Mar 27, 2020

OREGON: Workers can report workplace COVID-19 safety violations

COVID-19Safety and Health 

Oregon Governor Kate Brown is encouraging workers who believe their company isn’t following safety and health advisories related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) to file a report online with Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Oregon OSHA has the authority to investigate the complaint and require compliance with all workplace restrictions related to the coronavirus. The OSHA – Oregon Hazard Reporting form allows workers who make an online report to choose to remain anonymous.

In Oregon, there’s conflicting information on social distancing protocols for businesses that aren’t on the governor’s list of businesses that must close. The governor’s COVID-19 website includes a three-part quiz to determine whether your business can remain open. The third question asks, “Can you adhere to social distancing—keeping all of your employees and customers 6 feet apart?” and if you answer “no,” it says you must stop operating. However, the governor’s Stay Home, Save Lives executive order directs individuals to keep six feet between themselves but says businesses that are allowed to keep operating should develop social distancing protocols and refer to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) for guidance. The OHA offers a social distancing flyer that refers to the six-foot standard, but it appears to be directed at personal interactions, similar to the governor’s order. The OHA’s guidance for Oregon employers says businesses should implement social distancing measures and increase physical space between workers at the worksite, but doesn’t set a minimum distance. In correspondence with Vigilant safety staff, Oregon OSHA declined to set a specific distance standard but said employers have a duty to assess hazards and take appropriate measures to protect workers. If there are some job positions that cannot be performed at home and where it’s not possible to keep at least six feet of space between people, you should evaluate whether other safety protocols could be put in place, such as installing partitions between work stations or providing face shields.

Tips: Keep in mind that employees have a legal right to report safety violations and cannot be retaliated against for doing so. Likewise, if you’re subject to an anonymous complaint, you shouldn’t try to identify the worker who filed the report. Your response should be focused on immediately bringing the workplace into compliance. Although violators can be issued a citation for a misdemeanor, the Governor’s Office has indicated that enforcement will likely be in the form of a warning. Please consult with your Vigilant safety professional if you have specific questions or concerns about how to ensure worker safety during this crisis.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.