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OSHA Fine Upheld for Walmart Failing to Vaccinate First-Aid Team

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 04, 2019 4:01 PM

Walmart must provide hepatitis B vaccinations to warehouse workers who volunteered for an injury-response team, a federal appeals court said.

In Wal-Mart Stores East v. Acosta, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the superstore had to comply with federal health requirements. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates certain workers receive vaccinations.

Walmart argued that volunteers were exempt because giving first aid was not their primary job. The Eighth Circuit cleaned that mess up and upheld a $26,000 fine against the company.

Volunteer Workers

Volunteers for the injury response teams tended to workers at a designated area at the distribution center. The federal appeals court said that's close enough for OSHA requirements.

It falls under a regulation for bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis B. The law directs employers to make vaccinationus available to "all employees who have occupational exposure."

In 2015, OSHA cited Walmart twice for violating the law and proposed $30,000 in fines. The company challenged the citations before an administrative law judge.

The ALJ upheld the OSHA action, reducing the first fine to $1,000 and keeping the second at $25,000. Walmart then petitioned for review of the order of the Occupational Safety and Health Reviews Commission.

Walmart argued the law did not apply to its volunteer workers, claiming an exemption for those who provide first aid as "a collateral duty." Walmart's SIRT team provided only "routine first-aid care," the company said.

First-Aid Room

However, the appeals court said, the "collateral duty" exemption does not apply to those who work in designated first-aid areas. The appellate judges said the evidence was clear that:

  • The team's room was labeld "FIRST AID ROOM"
  • It was separated from the warehouse by double doors
  • It was well-stocked with medical supplies

Under the circumstances, the panel said, Walmart was required to provide vaccinations to its injury-response team.

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