The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces standards for workplace safety, recently cited three Long Island, New York-based healthcare providers for safety violations. Each provider has been cited for a violation related to COVID-19 safety measures. The proposed fines total nearly $22,000. The OSHA fines are discussed below.

OSHA Fines: What Did The Healthcare Facilities Fail to Do?

In early November of 2020, OSHA cited 35 employers for alleged coronavirus-related safety violations. The proposed OSHA fines for these workplace safety violations total $471,337. Three Long Island, New York-based healthcare facilities were among the entities cited for violations alleged to have occurred between October 23, 2020 and October 29, 2020.

OSHA Fines Safety Violations

Mercy Medical Center, located in Rockville Center, New York, was given an initial proposed OSHA fine of $9,639, for failure to report a work-related death within eight hours. Subsequently, the citation and fine were withdrawn. According to OSHA, the citation and fine were withdrawn after the employer provided evidence of a good-faith attempt at complying with the OSHA injury and fatality reporting requirement. While the OSHA fine was withdrawn in this case, the failure to report work-related deaths involving COVID has resulted in OSHA fines levied against a number of other covered entities. Under the OSHA reporting requirement, within eight (8) hours after learning of the death of any employee as a result of a work-related incident, an employer must report the fatality to OSHA. This prompt reporting requirement ensures OSHA can conduct any required investigation as soon as possible.

A second Long Island covered entity, Meadowbrook Care Center, was cited for violation of the OSHA respiratory protection standard. Under this standard, employers are required to conduct medical evaluations of employees, before employees can be fit-tested for respirators to be used at work. Meadowbrook received an additional citation under the same standard for failing to fit-test employees who are to wear a tight-fitting face respirator. The total proposed OSHA fine is $12, 145. Meadowbrook has appealed the citation.

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A third Long Island entity, East Northport Residential Healthcare Facility, was cited. East Northport Residential Health Care Facility, Inc., is the legal name for Huntington Hills Center for Health & Rehabilitation, located in Melville, New York. Huntington Hills serves the needs of individuals requiring a short-term rehabilitative stay, following a surgical procedure or an acute medical episode. Huntington Hills was also cited for failure to conduct a medical evaluation of employees before respirator fit-testing. Huntington Hills provided documentation of the medical evaluation during the course of OSHA’s investigation, correcting the problem. 

“Failure to conduct medical evaluations before fit-testing” citations have become more prevalent since the COVID-19 outbreak began. 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.

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