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JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore.-- Oregon OSHA has fined five employers more than $800,000 for job safety violations.
OSHA said all the employers are linked to a property in Josephine County used to house workers and process hemp.
The violations the employers are facing include allowing 25 employees work in a condemned building that could have collapse and severely injured or killed them, according the OSHA.
OSHA named the following employers as part of the violations: Eighteen New Hope LLC; Jai B Levy and Yoram Levy and Yuval Magid; Jai B Levy and Yoram Levy; Yuval Magid; and Safe & Simple LLC.
A property in Murphy is at the heart of the issue. OSHA said the property was used to trim and package hemp for resale.
OSHA launched an investigation of the operation based on a referral from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
The building included working and living areas. It had been deemed unsafe for occupation by the Josephine County building safety officials.
Instead of addressing the building's structural defects, OSHA investigators says the employers allowed the employees to work, live, cook, and sleep in and around it.
The investigation also identified major gaps in and under the building's walls. OSHA said it exposed workers to water, rodents, and insects. Investigators also found a lack of exit routes and padlocked doors that left workers no safe way to escape the building in case of a collapse or fire.
“Our rules are clear about providing people with a safe and healthy place to work, including making necessary repairs and following sound safety practices,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “The same goes for our requirements when employers provide housing to workers. The neglect in this case is staggering and utterly inexcusable.”
Oregon OSHA issued citations with $165,000 in penalties to each of the five employers, for a total of $825,000 in fines. Each citation outlined the same five willful violations identified by the agency. A willful violation occurs when an employer intentionally or knowingly disregards workplace safety and health requirements.
OSHA listed the following violations the employers are charged with:
- Failure to make the building structurally safe and to have it properly inspected before allowing employees to enter, occupy, and work within it.
- Failure to ensure living areas were safe, in good repair structurally, and stable on their foundations.
- Failure to provide permanent, unobstructed exit routes to leave work areas safely during emergencies.
- Failure to provide two or more exit routes that were necessary for employees to safely escape during a structural collapse or fire.
- Failure to ensure exit doors were unhindered for use during an emergency. Two exit doors were blocked by padlocks on the outside of each door.