March 10, 2022

OSHA Inspections to Assess Facilities' Readiness to Address COVID-19 Surges

On Monday, OSHA announced a short-term inspection initiative focused on high-hazard healthcare facilities such as hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat or handle COVID-19 patients. During a three-month period, from March 9 to June 9, 2022, such facilities can expect an increase in “highly focused inspections” that OSHA says are intended to “emphasize monitoring for current and future readiness to protect workers from COVID-19.” Another goal of the agency’s initiative is to prepare for any new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A memorandum for OSHA regional administrators and state plan designees outlines instructions and guidance to federal OSHA area offices regarding the initiative. According to Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, the agency is “using available tools” while it works to finalize a standard that will protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards. OSHA stated in December that it “intends to continue to work expeditiously” to issue a final standard in this area.

OSHA’s new COVID-19 inspection initiative in healthcare supplements its revised National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19. The NEP originally focused on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 and on employers that retaliated against workers who complained about unsafe or unhealthy work conditions or exercised other rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The revised NEP targets industries with the most risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposures, such as meat and poultry processing, and includes both healthcare and non-healthcare workplaces.

More information on OSHA’s new enforcement initiative can be found in its press release and memorandum, both of which are available on the agency’s website.