Hamilton County threatens to close businesses that don't comply with safety rules

Posted at 7:08 PM, May 06, 2020

As Ohio starts to reopen businesses, the Hamilton County health commissioner says it’s his job to respond to complaints about workplace safety, and he means business.

“We have authority within the governor's order to close businesses that aren't acting safely, and typically that's enough to get folks to comply,” said Greg Kesterman, the county’s interim health commissioner.

Gov. Mike DeWine said you should report work safety concerns to your local health department. DeWine said companies have an obligation to do everything they can to keep you safe.

So we talked to Kesterman to find out how the Hamilton County Health Department ensures companies act fast to correct any dangers.

“The initial complaint is handled with a phone call to the business. If we get a second complaint, we're actually going out to the business to see what's going on,” Kesterman said.

Six complaints came in to the health department in the first two and a half hours Wednesday.

In the past month, the health department says it has logged 189 complaints in its database to track these issues and received nearly 400 email complaints.

And those complaints came in before the reopening started.

According to the governor's rules:

  • Businesses must perform routine cleaning.
  • Workers must wear masks and stand 6 feet apart.
  • Customers should wear masks to protect others from spray.

The health department says restaurants should have a sign on the door limiting the number of people inside, and they should have markers on the floor so customers know where to stand to give others space.

Businesses have also been instructed to work with employees that are expressing reluctance to come back due to safety concerns.

Job & Family Services said a review board will decide if employees who don't return can get unemployment benefits.

Kesterman had this advice for customers who notice businesses that are not complying:

“If you are at a place you feel unsafe, it is OK to leave,” Kesterman said. “And sometimes us leaving and the business knowing that they're losing customers, that will drive change as well."

You can file complaints anonymously at the health department website.