Kevin Troutman, co-chair
Fisher Phillips’ national Healthcare Industry Group

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration from March 9 to June 9 will devote 15% of all of its workplace inspections per region to nursing homes, assisted living communities and hospitals that treat people with COVID-19, the agency announced Monday.

The heightened workplace inspections are meant to prepare for any new COVID-19 variants that may emerge and provide healthcare workers the protections they deserve, the Department of Labor said. Initially, they will be focused on sites that were previously issued citations, as well as where complaints were received but the agency did not conduct in-person inspections.

The inspections will target skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, general medical and surgical hospitals, and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, according to law firm Fisher Phillips.

“This was announced to be a three-month targeted focus on hospitals and nursing care facilities that had prior inspections that resulted in a COVID-related citation or hazard alert letter or there was a prior COVID complaint but there was no on-site inspection, Kevin Troutman, co-chair of Fisher Phillips’ national Healthcare Industry Group, told the McKnight’s Business Daily.

He previously said that President Biden’s comments during the State of the Union for increased scrutiny on the nursing home industry, and Monday’s press release from OSHA, foreshadowed that healthcare facilities should be prepared to face increased scrutiny from inspectors.

Data from Fisher Phillips’ recently launched OSHA inspections tracker showed that healthcare workplace inspections from the OSHA rank fifth among various industries so far in 2022. The lawyers had expected healthcare to rank at least third among industries including construction, manufacturing, retail and waste management and remediation.

Be prepared

“Nursing homes especially should review their COVID protocols and verify that they are current and still being followed as written, and also review their procedures for managing OSHA inspections, focusing on making sure that key personnel know what to do if OSHA appears for an inspection,” Troutman said.

Fisher Phillips offered five tips to help clients prepare for the wave of OSHA workplace inspections:

  • Confirm which rules and standards apply to your operations.
  • Review and confirm compliance with all applicable COVID-19 protocols, including documentation.
  • Confirm your status regarding the vaccine mandate.
  • Constantly evaluate recruiting and retention status. 
  • Review your procedures for managing OSHA inspections.

Union response

A representative from National Nurses United, the country’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses, told the McKnight’s Business Daily that OSHA should focus instead on enforcing its healthcare COVID-19 emergency temporary standard.

“A short-term pseudo-enforcement that will do little to meaningfully and materially hold employers accountable is not adequate to ensure that healthcare workers are protected on the job from exposure to and infection from COVID-19,” National Nurses United said.

OSHA withdrew the non-recordkeeping portion of its healthcare emergency temporary standard in December but said at the time that it would “work expeditiously to issue a final standard.” The agency said it would accept continued compliance with the healthcare ETS as satisfying employers’ obligations under OSHA’s general duty clause.