healthcare workers ask osha for more oversight on covid 19 safety

Last spring, when Cliff Willmeng, RN, at United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, would take off his personal protective equipment (PPE) in the same hallway where children were being transported by ambulances to the emergency room at the neighboring children’s hospital. Stretchers would roll on the floor over the red tape that called the area the “hot zone”. The door to a break room was about ten feet away.

Willmeng has been a union activist all his life, but he never filed a complaint with the OSHA before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Willmeng and other colleagues were concerned about the lack of space to store PPE and other situations where the spread of SARS-CoV-2 appeared possible, and filed several OSHA complaints with the Minnesota Department of Labor in March and April. Willmeng was also concerned about bringing SARS-CoV-2 home to his wife and children on his scrubs, and he began wearing hospital-supplied scrubs that were intended for doctors and washed on-site, something against those Violated hospital policy. The hospital discharged Willmeng on May 8, citing the code of conduct and the respectful workplace violations resulting from the unitary dispute.

However, Willmeng, who has been unemployed since his release, says that without a receipt or confirmation from OSHA, he has no way of knowing whether his complaints have been followed up. OSHA in Minnesota said workers should receive a letter once a case is resolved.

As in Willmeng’s case, none of the 10,000-plus COVID-related complaints the OSHA federal agency has received from across the country will result in significant sanctions. The unions have selected local OSHA offices and published complaints on behalf of their members to protest what they see as a lack of control. Legislators have urged US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to step up enforcement.

For many health care workers, complaining to OSHA is a last resort after supervisors fail to get satisfactory responses and seek help from unions. But with such minimal scrutiny from OSHA, some union leaders and lawmakers say it is actually more dangerous than having no safety enforcement at all in the workplace. The lack of instructions from the Trump administration has left the agency without the teeth it cut under previous administrations, and recent changes to the agency’s rules raise questions about whether companies will ever be required to hospitalize workers due to COVID-19 Report to.

An earlier writing by a government official in the Journal of the American Medical Association was equally critical: “In the face of the greatest worker health crisis in recent history, OSHA, the primary government agency responsible for worker health and safety, has failed to fulfill its responsibilities.”

What could happen
There are early signs that the agency won’t take the COVID-19 security issue seriously, Brudney said.

When asked for an interview, a Department of Labor spokesman replied that existing OSHA requirements apply to workers during the pandemic, including providing PPE to workers and assessing sanitary and hygienic standards. The agency has issued specific guidelines for companies to prepare for pandemics and responded to all complaints. He also cites whistleblower laws that prohibit employers from taking revenge on workers for raising health and safety complaints.

The Federal Office for OSHA received 10,868 COVID-related complaints from February 1 to October 20, citing issues ranging from failure to provide adequate PPE to failure to notify workers of exposure. On October 22, 2349, complaints related to health workers. This count does not include the number of “informal” complaints handled by the OSHA state bureau.

They cite the success of standards issued by OSHA in 1991 in response to the HIV / AIDS crisis. “The standard of blood-borne pathogens has contributed to a significant reduction in the risk of healthcare workers for blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C,” they write. In a new report for the Century Foundation, the couple make recommendations to the federal government on how to fight the spread of the disease by strengthening the role of OSHA.

OSHA has issued a response plan that requires employers to report on workers who have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace and who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 or who have died of the disease within specified time frames. However, the recent changes to these rules require experts to ask whether companies actually need to report hospitalizations.

Critics say OSHA could have acted much sooner without issuing temporary emergency standards. OSHA published its first COVID-related federal quote in May, against the nursing home being dropped because of events that took place in mid-April. The second COVID-related federal quote came in July.

Many of OSHA’s 22 state offices appear to be more responsive to COVID-related complaints than the federal agency, creating a system where health workers have vastly different rights from state to state. For example, the Governor of California recently authorized the California division of OSHA to view COVID-19 as an imminent threat, prohibit workers from entering areas where there is a risk, and require employers to disclose exposures. The state recently imposed heavy fines on COVID safety issues: $ 222,075 to frozen food maker Overhill Farms and $ 214,080 to employment agency Jobsource North America.

OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens training is mandated for all workers at risk of exposure and is part of the current standards for COVID-19 safety, you can get Free Bloodborne Pathogens Training on a pass first, pay later basis.