UPDATE: LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — For three months, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office has inspected businesses under Governor John Bel Edward’s OpenSafely requirements.
Out of over 8,100 inspections from May 4 to July 29, 698 businesses had a violation, including almost 50 inside Acadiana.
The state fire marshal office hasn’t issued any citations yet. Instead, they’ve used each violation as an opportunity to educate the business about the issue.
“Having laws doesn’t stop crimes from being committed,” explained Louisiana’s State Fire Marshal Butch Browning. “It’s about building relationships, building understanding, and that’s exactly what this is all about.”
Chief Browning said out of the first three month’s of COVID-19 OpenSafely checks, less than 10% of inspections showed a violation.
“That’s a heck of a scorecard of compliance when you’re asking people to comply with something they don’t know nothing about,” Browning insisted.
Each inspection looks at 13 areas of compliance, and 700 businesses showed one or more violations since the start of OpenSafely on May 4.
Yaser Balbeisi, the owner of Zeus Cafe in Crowley admitted his business was one of them.
“Everything was new,” Balbeisi told News 10. “I just needed the instruction, and they gave us the instruction.”
With the fire marshal’s guidance, Yaser Balbeisi made the adjustments to pass two later inspections with full compliance.
“They need to come out and tell us what needs to be done because we don’t know,” Balbeisi said. “And I really thank them for this. I really do appreciate how hard they work for us to keep us safe and to keep the customer safe.”
Some places have had repeat violations. On July 3, an inspector found at the Jennings Travel Plaza “4 out of 6 employees did not have face masks.” They complied after the inspector’s explanation.
However, 12 days later the same inspector met resistance recording, “While waiting to check out many patrons in the store with no face mask. The clerk did not have her mask on properly and said she wasn’t going to wear it.”
The inspector identified himself and advised the clerk her response “was not appropriate for her to say to the patrons.” He “educated her on how it was effective to help against the spread of disease and as a business representative it was her duty to wear her mask and ensure her patrons do the same.” The clerk complied then but voiced her displeasure.
Even in these instances approach has still been to educate over punish. Management of the Jennings Travel Plaza told News 10 they “have corrected the issue.”
Chief Browning assured businesses and authorities want the same thing, a safe and thriving establishment in a tough and confusing time.
“If an employee’s masks is not on completely proper or might have been pulled down, those mishaps happen, and we just bring it to their attention,” explained Browning. “That’s a far cry from something so egregious to where somebody is saying, ‘We’re not going to wear a masks and our employees aren’t going to wear masks,’ And we just don’t have that going on.”