By Brent I. Clark, Meagan Newman, and Anne D. Harris

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued substantial citations for various safety violations to a vocational rehabilitation and counseling center for young adults in Florida.

Teen Challenge of Florida Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers assistance to at-risk young adults received twenty-five safety and health violations totaling $228,600 in penalties after an inspection of the organization’s Pensacola, Florida facility. The organization was cited for various violations in its wood shop for lack of proper guards to protect students as well as failure to provide equipment such as safety glasses and suitable eyewash stations.  OSHA also cited the organization for failure to train students in first aid and provide safe exit routes in the event of emergency.

Notably, the organization does not employ the young adults.  While program participants are provided room and board as well as counseling services as part of the residential treatment program, they do not receive monetary compensation.  OSHA therefore issued citations based on standards relating to employee safety even though the program participants are more appropriately classified as interns or students, rather than employees.

It is clear that OSHA intended to expand its definition of employees to include interns or students.  In light of this citation, OSHA may look to traverse new territory and issue safety citations impacting companies or non-profit organizations that include “workers” outside the scope of the traditional definition of employees.  If your company or business provides educational programs, retains interns, or provides any type of non-traditional employment options, careful review and consideration of safety standards and protocols should be evaluated.