Cal/OSHA Issues Citations to Grocery Stores for COVID-19 Violations

September 30, 2020

Cal/OSHA has cited five grocery stores in Southern California for failing to protect their employees from COVID-19.

The retailers were cited for various health and safety violations, including some classified as serious, with proposed penalties ranging from $13,500 to $25,560.

“Grocery retail workers are on the front lines and face a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in a statement. “Employers in this industry must investigate possible causes of employee illness and put in place the necessary measures to protect their staff.”

Source: Cal/OSHA

The grocery stores, owned and operated by Cincinnati, Ohio-based Kroger Co., were cited for failing to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 because they did not update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus.

The Food 4 Less in Los Angeles and Ralphs grocery stores in Studio City, Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood reportedly put their workers at risk for serious illness by allowing too many customers in the store, which prevented workers from maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance.

The Studio City location reportedly exposed workers in the cheese department to hazards related to COVID-19 as they did not install physical barriers between employees and customers. Plexiglas or other required barriers were not installed at registers 1-8 at the West Hollywood location.

Cal/OSHA inspectors determined that both the Culver City and West Hollywood locations failed to provide effective training for their employees, including instruction on how the virus is spread, measures to avoid infection, signs and symptoms of infection, and how to safely use cleaners and disinfectants.

The Culver City and Sherman Oaks grocery stores reportedly failed to report a worker’s fatal COVID-19 illness at each location. Cal/OSHA learned of the fatality seven days after the worker’s death in Culver City, and six days after the fatality in Sherman Oaks.

Cal/OSHA has created guidance for many industries in multiple languages including videos, daily checklists and detailed guidelines on how to protect workers from the virus. This guidance provides a roadmap for employers on their existing obligations to protect workers from COVID-19.

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