SAN JOSE — The state’s office security watchdog has fined the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority a complete of $16,200 for COVID-19 well being and security violations, months after the demise of a bus driver who contracted the virus.
California’s Division of Occupational Security and Well being, also known as Cal/OSHA, issued two citations to VTA on March 2, claiming the transportation company did not “successfully implement and preserve its Harm and Sickness Prevention Program” throughout the pandemic.
VTA “didn’t require or guarantee the usage of face coverings always by workers on the facility and whereas working the buses,” the citations allege.
The company additionally “didn’t present efficient coaching and instruction to workers,” the state mentioned, together with about “how the virus is unfold and measures to keep away from an infection, the indicators and signs of an infection, and the employer’s process to regulate transmission within the office.”
The citations, every with a positive of $8,100 hooked up, had been the results of inspections Cal/OSHA carried out between early September, and late February. The state company categorized each violations as “severe.”
The fines had been first reported by KTVU.
In October, 53-year-old Audrey Lopez, a San Jose resident and VTA operator for greater than 13 years, passed away after a prolonged battle with COVID-19, changing into the primary VTA worker to die from the virus. She contracted it in late August, officers mentioned.
Whereas the VTA contends Lopez didn’t contract coronavirus on the job — noting that she adopted security protocols and wore protecting gear — John Courtney, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Native 265, informed this information group beforehand he disputed that declare.
Bus operators akin to Lopez work together with numerous passengers every day, Courtney mentioned, and “all she did was travel from work.”
One other VTA worker, 63-year-old Jon Finister of San Jose, a mechanic, died on March 1, after calling off of labor with Covid signs in February, Courtney mentioned Monday in an interview.
“Jon was generally known as a tough employee with an amazing humorousness and he might be sadly missed by all,” a tribute on the union’s web site mentioned.
Finister and Lopez had been each amongst “essentially the most diligent when it got here to following security protocols,” Courtney mentioned.
“I’m not stunned that they obtained fined,” Courtney mentioned of the company.
Brandi Childress, a spokesperson for VTA, mentioned in an emailed assertion to this information group that she couldn’t touch upon the specifics of the allegations within the citations as a result of the company is interesting them.
“Nevertheless, VTA is assured within the complete actions it has taken up to now to maintain its workers and clients secure and knowledgeable throughout this very difficult time,” Childress mentioned.
“Shedding members of our work household to this pandemic has been extraordinarily troublesome. We stay dedicated to sustaining our vigilance and doing all we are able to to gradual the unfold of this virus,” she mentioned.
Courtney mentioned he thinks VTA “dropped the ball” with Covid as a result of they had been gradual to alert workers and the unions about new circumstances, and he claims they didn’t use correctly skilled contact tracers to observe the potential path of inspection when folks fell unwell.
“The contact tracing that VTA did was completely horrible,” he mentioned.
“They only used inside supervisors….they by no means took it any additional than that,” he mentioned.
He mentioned Monday that between the start of the pandemic in March 2020, by means of early February of this 12 months, there have been about 180 VTA workers who fell unwell with the virus.
“They prefer to blame workers for not sporting our masks, or say possibly we weren’t social distancing within the yard, however the backside line is, it took VTA a very long time to do the appropriate factor with Covid,” he mentioned. “With out the right coaching you’ll be able to’t blame the oldsters for not doing the appropriate factor,”
Courtney famous that the connection between his union and the administration of VTA has improved in current weeks, with extra collaboration and communication round vaccination plans and schedules.
Workers writers Nico Savidge and Maggie Angst contributed to this report.