OSHA has weaponized its enabling law’s General Duty Clause in an effort to help union organizers by attacking Amazon for maintaining what it asserts are unsafe fulfillment centers.
The GDC is part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which created OSHA. It holds that employers have the general duty to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for their employees even in the absence of specific regulations.
The agency recently issued charges and fines under the GDC umbrella for Amazon, who OSHA holds has medically mismanaged workers’ injuries.
The agency imposed such a GDC citation to an Amazon fulfillment center in Castleton, NY. It charges that the medical mismanagement of 10 employee injuries caused or were believed to be likely to cause additional harm or impair recovery.
OSHA says Amazon delayed evaluation, care and treatment of injured workers from a medical provider other than the onsite medical staff, whose performance OSHA alleged was inadequate.
It also accuses Amazon of prematurely returning injured workers to work, which allegedly resulted in worsening of the injuries, exacerbation of pain and impairing recovery.
This year, OSHA has cited Amazon for violations at seven fulfillment centers It also currently has 20 open inspections at Amazon locations.
Attorney Lawrence Halprin of the Keller and Heckman law firm says it would be a good idea for employers with onsite clinics or similar arrangements to ensure its they have appropriate medical protocols developed or reviewed by physicians, and properly documented.
Taking these preventive measures will go a long way to protecting your operation from unexpected GDC charges of medical failure, he adds. “If an OSHA inspector hands your site representative a medical access order, it would be prudent to consult legal counsel.”