- The U.S. Department of Labor is beginning "highly focused" inspections in hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities with COVID-19 patients between now and June, the agency announced March 7.
- Through the inspections, the agency aims to boost its presence, ensure continued disease mitigation and evaluate employers for readiness for future variants of the virus. The temporary measure also serves as a placeholder for a forthcoming standard: "We are using available tools while we finalize a healthcare standard," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said. "We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare."
- The inspections will monitor employer readiness to protect workers from future outbreaks, OSHA said.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stay OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccination emergency temporary standard, it appears the agency is adjusting its approach to the pandemic. The move perhaps indicates its intent to enforce safety with less sweeping, more targeted measures.
OSHA’s announcement harkened back to reactions the High Court’s decision inspired among business leaders. An executive at HR solutions firm Insperity, for example, predicted the agency would move toward narrower standards, as opposed to attempting another broad standard in line with its original ETS. A partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth similarly predicted OSHA would opt for narrow rules that target workplaces with employees facing enhanced risk.
As OSHA bumps up inspections in anticipation of a forthcoming standard, many healthcare facilities face a number of employment-related challenges. Unions have been petitioning to keep OSHA requirements around ventilation, physical barriers and other protections intact for healthcare workers.
Meanwhile, the healthcare sector has been battling turnover and recruiting challenges, with many workers in the industry saying they're tempted to quit; some say stricter COVID-19 measures could dampen turnover caused by safety frustrations.