Hospitals Struggle to Comply with Regulations Amidst Coronavirus-induced Shortage

December 11, 2020

Hospitals Struggle to Comply with Regulations Amidst Coronavirus-induced Shortage

covid19 osha compliance

Things have slowed down drastically for global economies during the pandemic outbreak. As of December last year, UNCTAD forecasted approximately 3% of drop in global productivity and trade that will be seen throughout the years 2019-2020; and around the same time, the International Monetary Fund’s forecast for those years was a glaring 4.4% drop. And to an extent, at the rear end of 2020, these reports no longer feel much of an exaggeration. Just mid-year of 2020, reports have demonstrated a drop in the U.S. GDP which was at a record-breaking 32.9%, which was a decline that has been compared to the state of the economy after the second World War.

With much clarity, the economic devastation brought about global government-ordained shutdowns and lockdowns; not only stifling global productivity but the sheer amount of unemployment caused by such mandates damaging purchasing power. As an unavoidable result, the most critical industry during the pandemic; which is the hospital industry, and all of its related establishments has been struggling as well.

Current shortage of hospital equipment such as ventilators, medical deices such as personal protective equipment, drugs needed to treat the virus and other illnesses, as well as human capital such as staff have all partly incapacitated the capacity of the healthcare system that had also started to overload. Hospitals being stretched too thin have incapacitated not only their ability to help patience but their ability to comply with stricter, regulatory protocols concerning dedicated agencies in light of COVID-19.

What are the current instances of non-compliance that are happening?

OSHA compliance, for example, has been difficult for a lot of healthcare establishments. Just in the first week of November, OSHA has cited at least a total of $2,496,768 worth of penalties regarding non-compliance to OSHA’s regulations. These are fines from over 179 inspections and extends only insofar as coronavirus-related violations are concerned. The most common failures being:

  • Implementing a written respiratory protection program
  • Providing a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator and personal protective equipment
  • Reporting an injury, illness, or fatality
  • Recording an injury or illness properly
  • Complying with the general duty clause

These violations have also risen in light of not only more demanding compliance requirements from OSHA, but bigger numbers of civil penalties to deter non-compliance and risks that can arise out of incredibly high-risk environments.

Violations Past Penalty Current Penalty
Willful Violation

Employers or companies have failed to comply with an OSHA standard, and have demonstrated neglect for the safety of employees.

Minimum: $9,472

Maximum: $132,598

Minimum: $9,639

Maximum: $134,937

Repeated violation for a substantially similar violation that a company has been cited for by OSHA. $132,598 $134,937
Every serious violation regarding workplace hazards that can cause an accident or illness and has a high likelihood of resulting towards death or a serious physical harm $13,260 $13,494
Every other-than-serious violation $13,260 $13,494
Every failure to correct violation $13,260 $13,494
Every posting requirement violation $13,260 $13,494

What are the current standards of regulations that OSHA is implementing and how can establishments comply with them?

Full OSHA compliance has been updated to impose a standard of how establishments/employers should respond to COVID-19 in such a way that it decreases workplace hazards or the propensity for employees to catch COVID-19. Currently, there are four steps that employers should follow.

Step 1: Conduct a COVID-19 Exposure Risk Assessment

An exposure risk assessment is a process that must, and in no other circumstances shall it not, involve the feedback and participation of the employees. Under this, employees should be able to have the platform to negotiate and discuss matters related to their safety during COVID-19 through dedicated avenues such as committees whose sole responsibility is to safeguard employee safety. 

Step 2: Create a Written Exposure Plan for COVID-19

After the risk assessment, weak points within the company’s systems and its capabilities should ideally be exposed. Thus, a written exposure plan should involve the following:

  • Itemization/Listing of assignments that require the use of PPEs to limit COVID-19 exposure
  • Steps that will be taken by the company/employer to sustain an adequate supply of PPEs
  • List of hazard controls, measures that will be adopted or implemented by the company alongside a comprehensive description of each item.
  • Procedures that will be deployed to communicate with its employees, as well as other employees in multi-employer worksites when they are exposed or are under suspicion of having been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Training and information dissemination procedures that will be provided as per what is required by OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards.

Step 3: Implement a COVID-19 Exposure Control Training

This refers to implementing a kind of training for the employees that informs them of how they could keep themselves safe and standard protocols when it comes to dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA has repeatedly stressed that this training must be conducted in a way that is understood by every affected worker.

These include:

  • The characteristics of COVID-19, how it spreads, and how to mitigate it
  • Social distancing requirements
  • The kind of PPEs that employees must wear on the job
  • Sanitation requirements
  • Tracking the symptoms of COVID-19 and how to properly notify employers of these symptoms

Step 4: Implement Specific Controls and Rules

Other controls and measures must be implemented on worksites to ensure that the environment is compliant with OSHA’s standards. Establishments must ensure that there are:

  • Appropriate and optimized ventilation/air conditioning system in such a way that the air quality index in these establishments is at a good or moderate level. 
  • Frequent sanitation of high-risk surfaces and common areas every 8 hours for establishments that are in operation for 24 hours a day, alongside a proper system of medical waste disposal.
  • Dedicated spaces and protocols to open up the establishment for regular testing and instances where the local health agency deems it as necessary, as well as protocols to ensure that the self-isolation or send-home process for the employees are seamless.
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