Hospitals and skilled nursing facilities with COVID-19 patients will see another round of inspections to examine precautions against the disease for health care employees.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a three-month increase in “highly focused inspections” at sites that had previous citations or where complaints were received but the agency could not conduct an in-person response.
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, and protect the health and safety of health care workers at heightened risk for contracting the virus,” according to a news release about the new inspection program.
“We are using available tools while we finalize a health care standard,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in the news release. “We want to be ahead of any future events in health care.”
The inspection period is scheduled to continue through June 9. It includes focused follow-up and monitoring inspections of four types of facilities:
Since the start of the pandemic, general medical and surgical hospitals facilities prompted 1,120 complaints through March 2022, ranking second behind postal services among complaints by selected industry. With 591 complaints, skilled nursing facilities ranked third among selected industry totals, according to OSHA data.
OSHA faced criticism for its response to general concerns about workplace safety and employees being exposed to COVID-19 within businesses.
In 2020, OSHA had 15% more complaints than the year before, but performed 50% fewer inspections, according to a February 2021 audit by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General.
The same year, health care workers fighting the pandemic reported a “staggering” 249% increase in injury and illness rates, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the most recent announcement, OSHA paid tribute to health care workers who have spent two years 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,” the news release said.