The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is beginning a time-limited enforcement effort for focused inspections in assisted living communities, nursing facilities, and hospitals treating people with COVID-19. Since Beck & Lenox Assisted Living & Elder Law, LLC, works with so many clients that end up needing long-term care, we understand the need for OSHA to inspect assisted living and skilled facilities.
McKnight’s Senior Living’s recent article entitled “Assisted living providers to face additional pandemic-related scrutiny from OSHA” reports that the inspections are limited to organizations with previous COVID-19-related citations or complaints. They will look at the correction of the citations and compliance with existing OSHA standards to stress monitoring for current and future readiness.
OSHA explained that its goal is to expand its presence to ensure continued mitigation efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 and future variants, and to protect the health and safety of healthcare workers “at heightened risk for contracting the virus.”
OSHA will devote 15% of all of its inspections to healthcare organizations in the following classifications: assisted living facilities for the elderly, nursing care / skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals and general medical and surgical hospitals.
“We are using available tools while we finalize a healthcare standard,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dough Parker said. “We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare.”
This strong effort in pandemic-related scrutiny may be a temporary action until OSHA finalizes an anticipated permanent infectious disease standard for the healthcare industry. OSHA withdrew the non-recordkeeping part of its healthcare emergency temporary standard in December. However, they said it would “work expeditiously to issue a final standard.” The agency said it would accept continued compliance with the healthcare ETS as satisfying employers’ obligations under OSHA’s general duty clause.
OSHA adopted its COVID-19 healthcare ETS in June. This required assisted living communities and other healthcare settings to conduct hazard assessments and have written plans in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. These rules also required healthcare employers to provide some employees with N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment. The standard also included social distancing, employee screening and cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
While OSHA highlights skilled nursing facilities and hospitals in its memorandum for regional administrators, assisted living facilities also are mentioned.
At least 20 states have their own OSHA-approved state plans and may proceed differently than those subject to federal OSHA standards. However, the agency recommended that all healthcare employers in high-risk settings be ready for inspection. Healthcare employers should also have COVID-19 procedures and protocols in place and review their procedures for managing OSHA inspections.
From what Beck & Lenox has seen, our local Senior communities and facilities have made huge strides in creating protocols for the safety of residents and employees. The plan for OSHA to inspect assisted living and skilled facilities will address any remaining areas of improvement needed and is a positive move for everyone.
Reference: McKnight’s Senior Living (March 10, 2022) “Assisted living providers to face additional pandemic-related scrutiny from OSHA”