The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces standards for workplace safety, recently cited a Long Island, New York nursing and rehabilitation center, for alleged violations related to coronavirus guidelines. The citation contains a $15,422 fine. The citation and fines for the facility’s alleged coronavirus violations are discussed below.

Coronavirus Violations: What Did the Healthcare Facility Fail to Do?

In a November 20, 2020 news release, OSHA announced that from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic through November 12, a total of 232 OSHA citations were issued after inspections relating to coronavirus. 

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The inspections resulted in OSHA citing employers for a variety of COVID-related violations, including failures to:

Coronavirus Violations
  • Comply with the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The General Duty Clause is a “catchall” provision. It requires employers to keep their workplaces free of serious recognized hazards, even when no particular regulation  applies to the hazard.

One of the healthcare facilities OSHA cited for coronavirus violations is the East Neck Nursing Rehabilitation and Dialysis Center in West Babylon, New York. The facility was cited for the following coronavirus violations:

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  • Alleged failure to provide a medical evaluation to determine employees’ ability to use a respirator before the employee is fit tested or required to use the respirator in a workplace;
  • Ensuring that an employee uses a tight-fitting facepiece respirator that is fit-tested before using the respirator; and
  • Keeping records of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.

Per the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, using a respirator may place a physiological burden on employees, that varies with the type of respirator worn, the job and workplace conditions in which the respirator is used, and the medical status (i.e., asthma, COPD) of the employee. Therefore, employers must implement requirements for, and conduct medical evaluations, to determine whether an employee can use a specific type of respirator. The employer must provide the evaluation before fit-testing or before the employee is required to use the respirator in the workplace. If the medical evaluation reveals that the employee has a condition (i.e. asthma, COPD) that might render use of a particular respirator inappropriate, the employer should consider what other type of respirator might be appropriate.

As a result of the alleged violations, East Neck faces $15,422 in fines. East Neck has denied any wrongdoing, and has stated that it has fully complied with all CDC and New York Department of Health (DOH) guidelines. The facility is currently in settlement discussions with OSHA.