Assisted living communities can expect continued vigilance from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has extended its revised National Emphasis Program for Covid-19 until further notice with plans to double its inspection goals, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The increase stems from Centers For Disease Control and Prevention projections which show Covid-19 hospitalizations have increased since mid-April and forecasts that hospitalizations that “may increase significantly” in the coming weeks, the announcement states.
The program spotlights enforcement efforts on employers, including in nursing homes and assisted living, that put the largest number of workers at serious risk for getting sick with Covid-19 and on employers who make complaints about unsafe or unhealthy working conditions.
First launched last year, the National Emphasis Program covered health care and non-health care industries.
The temporary inspection goal will now be 10%, up from 5%, while a permanent Covid-19 plan is developed for a health care standard, a news release from the announcement said.
From March of 2021 to March of 2022, inspections under the new program accounted for 7% of all OSHA inspections, exceeding the projected goal of 5%. Since February 2020, OSHA has issued 1,200 Covid-19-related citations to employers to-date and doled out $7.2 million in penalties.
OSHA inspected 729 nursing homes and assisted living facilities between the start of 2022 and early June, an increase from 442 last year, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis.
Meanwhile, other OSHA initiatives have sparked some debate within senior living, specifically when it comes to Covid-19 rules and regulations. Argentum, a leading senior living trade organization, issued a statement against changing OSHA rules related to Covid-19 due to many factors, CEO James Balda told SHN in April.
Balda noted that senior living communities already have enacted effective infection control measures, and are also subject to state and local regulations governing them. But on top of that, assisted living facilities should be exempt from the requirements, given that these are home- and community-based settings and not clinical institutions, he added.
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