Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced in a memorandum it will proceed with a highly focused, short-term initiative directed at general medical and surgical hospitals, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and skilled nursing and assisted living facilities that provide care to or handle COVID-19 patients. The initiative will last from March 9, 2022 to June 9, 2022 to ensure these facilities have taken the necessary steps to protect their workers from the hazards of COVID-19.
What Does This Mean for Healthcare Employers?
OSHA has made it clear throughout the pandemic that protecting healthcare workers is a priority. The initiative’s goal is aimed at determining whether “high-hazard” healthcare facilities previously cited for COVID-19 violations have followed through and corrected their violation(s).
According to OSHA, facilities may be selected for inspection if they have been previously cited for COVID-19 violations, or they could be randomly selected to ensure compliance with abatement or compliance with general COVID-19 requirements.
OSHA inspectors will investigate facilities to ensure any prior COVID-19 complaints made have been corrected and abated, even if citations were issued. All covered facilities that had a first visit from OSHA should be prepared for a second visit, even though site selections may be random.
OSHA will be looking to ensure whether a facility has adequate COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place. The agency outlined several factors it will consider in determining compliance. Violation corrections will not be the only assessment; OSHA will look to determine whether the facility has implemented a COVID-19 plan that includes preparedness, response, and control measures. Besides looking for a written plan, OSHA will assess whether the steps outlined in the plan have been implemented, enforced, and whether they are effective. Employers should also expect document requests during these inspections for information related to their procedures for verifying vaccination status and for OSHA 300 (injuries and illness log) summaries from 2020-2022 relating to all work related COVID-19 cases.
How Can Employers Prepare?
Employers can ensure their hazard assessments are documented and updated, and policies such as the respiratory protection program kept current. Employees that have employees that need respiratory protection should provide respirators, conduct fit tests, and ensure employees have medical clearance to wear the specific type of respirator provided. Employers that have agreed to abate cited hazards by providing fit testing and medical evaluations of their employees should make sure they are in full compliance with these requirements. Employers can take steps to have policies and procedures in place to document efforts made to provide adequate PPE. In addition, employers can provide proper health screenings for workers and measures to facilitate physical distancing where possible and necessary, and ensure the use of facemasks by both employers and visitors under the current public heath guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.