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KSL Investigates: Handful of businesses refuse COVID-related inspections

(KSL TV)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – Two months have passed since a statewide mask mandate required businesses to ensure employees are wearing masks to work.

The temporary administrative rule is enforced by the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Division, which is the state's equivalent of OSHA. The rule states employers and employees must mask up at work. Not doing so can mean punitive actions.

"They can be fined up to $7,000, so it can be quite substantial," said UOSH spokesman Eric Olsen.

Olsen told KSL Investigators the vast majority of businesses are complying with the temporary rule.

According to court documents, there have been four instances where UOSH had to seek administrative warrants to compel certain businesses to allow them to inspect the property following a complaint about masking.

These businesses — Fluent Homes LLC., Susie M's Gallery of Fine Tattooing, Bella's Fresh Mexican and Wasatch IT — all initially refused entry when state inspectors came knocking within the last three weeks.

Olsen said they could not comment on specific investigations that are currently in progress. In one affidavit, an inspector claimed the business owner told him "they are covered by the freedom of speech and continued talking about his rights."

Olsen said UOSH, rather than local health departments, is overseeing this part of the mask mandate because it has to do with employer and employee safety. "We don't have any jurisdiction over the customers — just over the employers and employees," Olsen said.

Those businesses who continue not to follow state rules could see additional punitive action.

"They can continue to get penalties if they're not going to adhere to what the rule is," Olsen said. "(if) they keep getting found to have violated the rule, they could continue to get fines on top of that, and at some point, the business has to look at that. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to keep doing this and what's it going to cost me? Because those fines aren't just going to go away."

The emergency rule is currently in place until Feb 22.

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