By Guy Burdick
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited a Bloomingdale, Illinois, nursing facility with violations of the agency’s COVID-19 healthcare emergency temporary standard (ETS). OSHA cited West Suburban Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for a repeat violation of the respiratory protection standard and five serious health violations and is seeking $83,675 in penalties.
“Simply wearing a respirator is not enough,” OSHA Area Director Jake Scott said in a statement. “Employers must ensure respirators fit correctly and maintain a face-to-facepiece seal to ensure they protect the user from the spread of infectious diseases.”
“After more than a year of fighting this pandemic, employers should know the procedures to minimize workers’ risk of exposure and take every precaution,” Scott continued.
The agency’s June 21 COVID-19 ETS only applies to healthcare facilities and healthcare support services where employees may be exposed to COVID-19. Under the ETS, healthcare facilities must conduct a hazard assessment and develop a written plan to mitigate virus spread through methods such as erecting barriers and implementing control measures to maintain 6 feet of distancing between employees at entry points and nursing stations, as well as control staff and patient access to quarantine zones.
In certain situations, employers also must provide employees with respirators or other personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers also must provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any vaccine side effects.
On September 9, the White House announced plans for a second OSHA ETS to require employers with 100 or more employees to vaccinate all their employees or test them weekly for COVID-19 infection.
The agency also has a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19 and cites nonhealthcare employers under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Insurance agency cited
OSHA cited an El Paso, Texas, insurance agency with a violation of the General Duty Clause after the agency responded to a complaint of unsafe working conditions in the company’s Denver office and a report of an employee’s death. The company faces $23,406 in proposed penalties for the single serious health violation.
“This company showed an indifference toward the safety and well-being of its employees, including one who fell victim to the coronavirus,” Denver Area Director Amanda Kupper said in an agency statement.
According to the agency, Fred Loya Insurance Agency did not develop or implement timely and effective measures to mitigate exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The agency said the employer could have taken steps to abate COVID-19 hazards that include:
- Ensuring employees practiced social distancing in all work areas;
- Ensuring that employees who exhibited symptoms were quarantined from the workplace until proof of a negative test was obtained;
- Considering utilizing remote work practices to ensure symptomatic employees were not in the workplace;
- Ensuring that employees who indicated symptoms on a symptom questionnaire were not in contact with the workplace or other employees; and
- Insisting that employees wear face coverings in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.