• Wed. May 25th, 2022

Health Administration

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OSHA to boost healthcare inspections to prepare for COVID variants

  • Inspections will focus on hospitals, nursing facilities
  • Employers will be assessed on readiness for next surge
  • Agency working on permanent infectious disease rule

(Reuters) – The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Tuesday said it is increasing inspection of hospitals and nursing facilities that treat COVID-19 patients over the next few months to prepare for the potential emergence of new variants of the virus.

OSHA released a memo sent to regional staff last week directing inspectors to focus on workplaces that were previously issued citations during the pandemic or where complaints were received but the agency never conducted an in-person inspection.

The agency said the goal of the three-month initiative is to control the spread of any future variants of the coronavirus and protect workers who are at heightened risk of becoming ill. Employers will be assessed in part on their readiness to address any ongoing or future surges, OSHA said.

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Doug Parker, director of OSHA, said in a statement the initiative was a way to utilize available tools while the agency finalizes a permanent standard on protecting workers from infectious disease.

“We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare,” Parker said.

OSHA has not said when it plans to issue the standard.

In the early weeks of the pandemic in 2020, OSHA said it was prioritizing inspections of healthcare facilities over other “essential” businesses that remained open because of the acute risk of transmission.

During the Trump administration, worker advocates criticized the agency for a drop in inspections and for opting to issue non-binding guidance instead of enforceable rules to address the pandemic.

OSHA last June issued an emergency rule requiring healthcare employers to take various steps to protect workers from contracting COVID-19, including rules on face masks, ventilation and screening and limiting patients and visitors. The temporary rule was withdrawn in December.

Read more:

U.S. Labor Dept issues emergency COVID-19 rule for healthcare workers

U.S. workplace safety agency will prioritize inspection of healthcare facilities

Decline in OSHA inspections during pandemic endangers workers – report

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