Greater OSHA Enforcement Is Coming to Health Care

Law360

Valerie Butera, a Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, authored an article in Law360, titled “Greater OSHA Enforcement Is Coming to Health Care.” (Read the full version — subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration quietly declared its intent to significantly increase enforcement efforts at in-patient care facilities, such as nursing homes, hospitals and residential care facilities. The news was delivered by Thomas Galassi, director of the directorate of enforcement for OSHA, in a memorandum sent to all OSHA regional directors. The memorandum explained that OSHA’s national emphasis program on nursing and residential care facilities, initially set to expire on April 5 would remain in effect until it was replaced by updated guidance or removed by the agency. More importantly, the memorandum explained that OSHA intends to issue updated guidance that instructs OSHA offices to allocate enforcement and other resources to the health care industry because of the industry’s extraordinarily high number of work-related injuries and illnesses.

OSHA intends to focus on five core hazards when inspecting health care facilities: (1) musculoskeletal disorders from lifting patients or residents, (2) exposures to infectious diseases, (3) bloodborne pathogens, (4) workplace violence and (5) slips, trips and falls. Although there are no OSHA regulations pertaining to several of these hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Act empowered OSHA to issue citations if it finds that an employer has failed to provide employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical injury. This provision, commonly known as the General Duty Clause, has been used liberally by OSHA under the Obama administration and OSHA has warned the health care industry, in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that it will not hesitate to rely upon the General Duty Clause in issuing citations.

Ms. Butera also authored a blog post on Epstein Becker Green’s OSHA Law Update on this topic, titled “Health Care Industry: OSHA Is Quietly Gunning for You – Is Your Workplace Ready?” Additionally, she will present a complimentary webinar on this topic, “Health Care in the Crosshairs: OSHA’s New Health Care Enforcement Initiative,” on June 17, 2015.