With few exceptions, most multifamily buildings or communities have at least one or two staff members (and sometimes many more) who maintain the safety, security, cleanliness, mechanical operations, and day-to-day functions that residents and visitors rely on—and as the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the country, the importance of the hard work those frontline employees do every day has become even clearer. With the average, non-medical-professional condo or HOA resident now something of an expert on disinfectant and personal protective equipment, it’s also instructive to know what agencies and organizations work to ensure the safety and security of the staff themselves. What systems and protocols are in place to address how employees can keep themselves—and each other—safe on the job? The New Jersey Cooperator went behind some familiar acronyms to find out.
Workplaces throughout the United States and its territories are subject to oversight by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is itself overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor. According to the OSHA website (osha.gov), “OSHA creates and enforces regulatory standards that require certain precautions to be taken in order to ensure the safety and health of workers.”
OSHA regulations are the primary worker safety statutes in the U.S., says Matthew Persanis, a partner with Elefante & Persanis, LLP, a labor, employment, and real estate law firm in Scarsdale, New York who is also labor counsel to a number of employer associations. “If a building complies with OSHA regulations, they are complying with what they need to.”
Part of keeping building and HOA employees safe is making sure they’re properly trained for the tasks expected of them. According to an OSHA spokesperson, “Property staff must have training appropriate for the types of jobs and tasks they are performing. If they work on electrical equipment, they need to be qualified. If they work with chemicals, they need to be trained in the safe use of those chemicals. If they are performing servicing and maintenance on equipment, it is possible they will need training in the control of hazardous energy. It is their employer’s responsibility to ensure the workers are trained on the hazards to which they are exposed. OSHA offers free, confidential onsite safety and health consultation services.”
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that OSHA standards are followed and maintained; it is the responsibility of the employee to call out serious hazards and to inform OSHA when they believe an employer is not compliant. OSHA compliance officers perform drop-in inspections only when there is an imminent or obvious hazard, an injury or fatality, or if a worker or worker representative files a complaint.