Excerpted from a Littler Mendelson PC Blog by Alka Ramchandani-Raj, Yvette V. Gatling and Mary Lockhart

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 to June 9, 2022, to ensure 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 violations.

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.

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 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.

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