Two assisted living communities are among 37 businesses that have been cited recently by the U.S. Department of Labor for COVID-19 violations.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration levied $484,069 in proposed fines against mostly healthcare companies and senior living communities in six states — Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas — for violations including failure to provide training on respirator use or personal protective equipment, and failure to report injuries, illnesses or fatalities.
Arbor Management Services in Atlanta, which operates Arbor Company Senior Living, faces a $13,494 fine for a respiratory protection violation, as does CareOne at Livingston Assisted Living in Livingston, NJ.
“OSHA’s allegation ignores the realities of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” a CareOne spokesman told McKnight’s Senior Living. CareOne was cited for failing to provide a medical evaluation for respirator use, respirator fit testing and training on the proper use of a respirator. The spokesman said the single citation was for a “technical violation” over an “alleged failure” in April to properly train workers on how to use N95 masks.
Arbor Terrace at Cascade had the state’s worst coronavirus outbreak at an assisted living community, resulting in 17 resident deaths. The citation involves a violation of the respiratory protection program that requires a workplace where employees are required to wear protective masks to have a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures, as well as employee training on those procedures.
In published reports, Arbor President Judd Harper provided a written statement saying that the citation involved a March 25 incident in which the company lacked written procedures for a specific type of disposable respirator, even though it had procedures in place for other types of masks.
“In the early days of the pandemic, we were in a pitched battle to secure the safety of our residents and staff and to curb the spread of COVID-19,” the written statement read. “Accordingly, we moved to dispense and distribute the most protective PPE and face masks available as soon as it was available, without regard to whether a written policy for that particular item was in place.”
Harper said the Arbor Company plans to appeal the OSHA citation.
Similarly, CareOne said it took emergency measures to protect its residents, staff and surrounding communities and made reasonable efforts to comply with all OSHA requirements. The spokesman went on to say that CareOne followed all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and state testing guidelines as they were announced and even exceeded recommended guidelines.
“From the beginning of the virus, CareOne maintained an adequate supply of PPE to ensure the well-being of staff and to minimize the spread of the virus,” Chief Nursing Officer Toya Casper told McKnight’s Senior Living. “CareOne didn’t require N95s and maintained an ample supply of KN95s but were lucky enough to be able to provide them if someone was more comfortable using them.”