Healthcare Employers Facing OSHA Scrutiny During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare industry, both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state plans like California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (more commonly known as Cal/OSHA) are seeing a significant increase in complaints, inspections, and investigations of workplace illnesses and fatalities. Anecdotally, the healthcare industry, including nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, acute care services, and senior living facilities, appear to be facing a huge wave of regulatory inspections at a never-before-seen pace. While OSHA has relieved some of the usual occupational safety and health obligations that healthcare employers must fulfill, the agency also has reemphasized—as evidence by its April 16, 2020, announcement on employers’ good faith efforts when enforcing compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic—that those employers must ensure that their workers’ safety and health in the workplace are not compromised. There is no question that OSHA’s enforcement focus right now, when not in response to complaints and fatalities, is on the healthcare industry.
OSHA requirements for healthcare facilities regulate everything from sanitation to bloodborne pathogens and personal protective equipment (PPE) and from training, to recordkeeping and administrative and engineering controls in order to address hazards like COVID-19 and much more. Businesses facing these risks and OSHA inspections may want to be careful when determining their illness recording and reporting obligations and responding to document requests and interviews.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.