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Oregon OSHA fines mattress retailer in Hillsboro more than $66,000, including for willfully exposing workers to vehicle safety hazards

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Nov. 29, 2022

Salem – Oregon OSHA has fined Mattress Megastore in Hillsboro more than $66,000 for multiple workplace safety violations, including willfully exposing employees to serious injury or death from potential traffic accidents.

The penalties followed an inspection launched by the division in response to a confidentially filed complaint. The inspection found the employer repeatedly and knowingly exposed employees to potential traffic accidents by requiring them to operate a one-ton box delivery truck that was clearly unsafe.

The truck had no working windshield wipers. Yet, the employer insisted employees use it for deliveries during rainstorms, according to Oregon OSHA’s inspection. The truck had two large cracks in the windshield, obscuring the driver’s line of sight. Still, the employer required employees to use the vehicle for deliveries. Moreover, the driver’s side seatbelt of the same vehicle failed to work.

“Driving is just as important as any other facet of workplace safety,” said Renee Stapleton, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “Taking it for granted only increases the risk of harm to employees. To knowingly neglect vehicle safety is inexcusable.”

In addition to making no effort to protect workers from hazards that were plain to see, Mattress Megastore threatened employees with termination if deliveries weren’t completed using the unsafe truck, according to Oregon OSHA’s inspection. A referral was made to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which enforces the anti-retaliation provisions of the Oregon Safe Employment Act.

The willful violation – carrying a $65,000 penalty – went against an Oregon OSHA requirement that forbids employers from allowing employees to drive or ride in any vehicle known to be unsafe. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional or purposeful disregard for the requirements of the Oregon Safe Employment Act or a plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Since 2013, Oregon has seen an average of 636 accepted disabling workers’ compensation claims per year for motor vehicle accidents. Meanwhile, the state averages about 51,000 traffic crashes per year, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The citation issued to Mattress Megastore included serious violations of other workplace safety requirements, with a total penalty of $66,960. The other violations were as follows:

  • A warehouse emergency exit route was blocked by merchandise, exposing employees to the potential hazard of not being able to leave the building safely. Penalty: $120.
  • No safety committee or safety meetings were established or held, leaving employees exposed to potential hazards because safety and health concerns were not being actively discussed or identified. Penalty: $860.
  • Areas in front of electrical cabinets were not kept free and clear of stored material, exposing employees to potential hazards associated with blocked electrical panels. Penalty: $120.
  • Heat illness prevention training was not provided to employees; no acclimatization plan was developed or implemented to gradually adapt employees to working in hot weather; the emergency medical plan did not address potential employee exposure to excessive heat; and no heat illness prevention plan was developed and maintained in writing. Penalty: $860.

The citation included a standard penalty reduction based on the small size of the company. Employers have 30 calendar days after receiving a citation to file an appeal.

Workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to raise safety concerns free of retaliation. In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers free resources to help improve workplace safety and health. These resources include:

  • Free Oregon OSHA consultations for employers to improve workplace safety and health programs – no fault, no citations, no penalties.
  • Free help from Oregon OSHA technical specialists with understanding rules and how to apply them.
  • An A-to-Z topic page about vehicle safety, including a transportation, employees, and materials checklist, a fact sheet about motor vehicle safety for employers and employees, and a vehicle safety sample program for small businesses.
  • Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services Multicultural Communications Program, providing outreach to communities with limited English proficiency. Toll-free number: 800-843-8086.
  • Ombuds Office for Oregon Workers for help understanding workplace safety and health rights, and workers’ compensation rights. Toll-free number: 800-927-1271.

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