OSHA ups inspections at healthcare facilities treating COVID patients

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced an enforcement memorandum for a short-term increase in highly focused inspections directed at hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat or handle COVID-19 patients.

For two years, millions of the nation’s healthcare workers have been battling the coronavirus. Many have endangered themselves as they care for those who contract COVID-19 while working in high-risk settings that expose themselves and their families. As the nation moves to the next phase of the pandemic, the DOL said it recognizes the need to prepare for any new variants that may emerge and provide healthcare workers the protections they deserve.

OSHA’s goal is to expand its presence to ensure continued mitigation to control the spread of COVID-19 and future variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as protect the health and safety of healthcare workers at heightened risk for contracting the virus.

“We are using available tools while we finalize a healthcare standard,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare.”

The agency will be initiating focused inspections to emphasize monitoring for current and future readiness to protect workers from COVID-19. Follow-up inspections will be conducted at sites that were previously issued citations, as well as where complaints were received but the agency did not conduct in-person inspections.

OSHA intends to expand its presence in targeted high-hazard healthcare facilities during a three-month period from March 9, 2022, to June 9, 2022. Through this focused enforcement initiative, the agency will verify and assess hospital and skilled nursing care employers’ compliance actions taken, including their readiness to address any ongoing or future COVID-19 surges.

This initiative supplements OSHA’s targeted enforcement under the Revised COVID-19 National Emphasis Program by conducting focused follow-up and monitoring inspections of previously inspected or investigated hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities within four North American Industry Classification System codes listed in the memorandum where COVID-19 citations or Hazard Alert Letters were issued, including remote-only inspections where COVID-19-related citations were issued.

This initiative and the revised COVID-19 National Emphasis Program would comprise 15% of OSHA’s enforcement activity.

On Dec. 27, 2021, OSHA announced its decision to withdraw the non-recordkeeping portions of the Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The agency 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.

Visit OSHA’s Coronavirus Disease webpage for more information and resources on keeping workers safe from COVID-19.

This story first appeared on Facility Management Advisor.