OSHA’s recent General Duty Clause (GDC) citation to an Amazon warehouse demonstrates that the agency is taking a more aggressive enforcement stance toward workplace ergonomic hazards.
The GDC citation was issued April 18, 2023, alleging that Amazon’s handling of 10 employee injuries amounted to medical mismanagement that was likely to cause additional harm or impair recovery.
According to law firm Keller & Heckman, the alleged medical mismanagement consisted of:
- delaying evaluation, care and treatment of injured workers from a medical provider beyond onsite medical representatives, whose performance OSHA states was inadequate, and
- prematurely returning injured workers to their regular jobs, resulting in worsening of the injury, exacerbating pain and impairing recovery from work-related injuries that required medical treatment.
The agency issued a similar GDC citation in 2016 to a poultry processing plant based on medical mismanagement of unidentified employee injuries. That citation was withdrawn as part of a formal settlement agreement.
This approach shows that OSHA believes it has a better chance of success with a GDC citation based on medical mismanagement of employee injuries than it does demonstrating that the underlying job presents a recognized hazard for musculoskeletal disorders, Keller & Heckman state.
The agency likely sees this method “as a means of improving workplace medical management practices and reducing the frequency and severity of work-related ergonomic injuries.”
For employers who use onsite workplace clinics, it would be a good idea to ensure its worksites “have appropriate medical protocols (developed or reviewed by physicians with adequate knowledge of occupational medicine), which are documented and properly implemented with the required medical supervision and appropriate quality review.”