Healthcare workers, and the facilities that employ them, have been an integral part in keeping the public healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many times, working in such high-risk settings put their own health and safety at risk. As the country moves towards the next phase of handling the pandemic, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has announced new efforts to provide increased protections which will mitigate the still present threat of transmission for healthcare workers.
On March 7th, OSHA announced a memorandum which would increase inspections in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities that treat or handle COVID-19 patients. In a press release from the agency, they stated that it recognizes the need to prepare for any new variants and provide healthcare workers the protections that they deserve. “We are using available tools while we finalize a healthcare standard,” said Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare.”
This short-term increase of inspections will occur during a three-month period between March 9, 2022, and June 9, 2022. OSHA’s expanded presence during this time will emphasize monitoring current and future preparedness to protect workers from any future COVID-19 surges. Inspectors will be targeting facilities which are deemed high-hazard and will be conducting follow-up and monitoring inspections with those who were previously issued citations or where complaints were received but the agency did not conduct in-person inspections. This initiative and the revised National Emphasis Program will comprise 15% of OSHA’s enforcement activity per region.
The high-focused healthcare inspections are to be in line with the procedures provided by the agency’s Field Operations Manual and coding instructions per the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program.
According to OSHA it will be limited to the following assessments:
- Determination of whether previously cited COVID-19-related violations have been corrected or are still in the process of being corrected.
- Determination of whether the employer has implemented a COVID-19 plan that includes preparedness, response, and control measures for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- Verification of the existence and effectiveness of all control measures, including procedures for determining vaccination status by reviewing relevant records.
- Requesting and evaluating the establishment’s COVID-19 log and the Injury and Illness Logs for calendar years 2020, 2021, and 2022, if available, to identify work-related cases of COVID-19.
- Reviewing the facility’s procedures for conducting hazard assessments and protocols for personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
- Conducting a limited records review of the employer’s respiratory protection program.
- Performing a limited, focused walkaround of areas designated for COVID-19 patient treatment or handling, including performing employee interviews to determine compliance.
OSHA withdrew non-recordkeeping portions of it’s Emergency Temporary Standard on December 2, 2021, stating that they intended to continue to work expeditiously to issue a final standard to protect healthcare workers. In their press release, the agency said they will accept continued compliance with the Healthcare ETS as satisfying employers’ related obligations under the General Duty Clause, Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protection standards.
United States Department of Labor. COVID-19 Focused Inspection Initiative in Healthcare | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2022-03-02
United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration News Release (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/trade/03072022-0