COVID-19 Likely Responsible for Hike in OSHA “Fatality/Catastrophe” Investigations at Healthcare Facilities
Compared to the first three weeks of April in 2019, April 1, 2020, through April 21, 2020, had a 720 percent increase in healthcare facility inspections in the “Fatality/Catastrophe” category. A stunning increase from 5 inspections in 2019 to 36 in 2020 during the same three weeks. Those inspections include hospitals and other medical facilities. The inspection information does not include any information about COVID-19, however, the massive increase in the category of inspections has no other explanation than the present pandemic and workers who have fallen ill or succumbed after contracting the virus. For an inspection to be categorized as “Fatality/Catastrophe,” a workplace fatality or the hospitalization of at least three workers with a workplace injury or illness must occur.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides data related to OSHA inspections opened by either the federal agency or the state agencies, depending on jurisdiction. This information is helpful to understand trends and OSHA inspection activities. As previously noted in our April 19, 2020, article, we discerned a trend as healthcare facilities were found to be subject to inspections at a disproportionate rate when compared to establishments in other industries.
It should be noted that overall, the number of OSHA inspections in all industry categories across the country has declined, as it appears that many inspectors are only venturing out to investigate accidents or fatalities.