The recent sad and tragic accident involving a young boy’s death at an outdoor grease trap at a local coffee shop brings to mind the duties employers have regarding safety. Beyond the moral duty to protect their employees and others, the legal sources of those duties can be federal, state or local as in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the State Department of Health (NYSDOH) or the County Department of Environmental Services (DES) respectively. Oversight may come in the form of audits or investigations of complaints offering the deterrence of possible significant fines, along with the threat of liability under workers’ compensation (employee injury or illness occurring on the job) or tort (intentional or negligent behavior injuring a customer/guest etc.) law. In response to the recent tragedy, Monroe County employees will be or already have inspected local restaurant grease traps. Current law does not require such inspections, but that may be changing soon as legislators are considering the issue.
All employers should be conducting their own internal safety audits on a regular basis, inside and outside their places of business, as applicable. Care should be given to eliminating any safety hazards in the workplace, such as debris or materials in walkways, hazardous materials improperly stored or safety equipment unavailable or not being used. Any employer seeking to discuss the parameters or details of an internal safety audit should not hesitate to contact us.