OSHA Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facilities

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

On May 14, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a one-page guidance sheet titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facility Workers.” The guidance lists several tips that employers in the nursing home and long-term care facility industry may take to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The guidance is part of a series of alerts designed to keep workers in specific industries safe from COVID-19. The recommendations are consistent with those found in other COVID-19–related guidance that OSHA has issued to all employers or employers in specific industries. For example, OSHA recommends that all employers provide handwashing facilities and alcohol-based hand sanitizer in workplaces and encourage sick employees to stay home. Some of the recommendations unique to the nursing home and long-term care facility industry include:

  • “Screen workers and residents regularly for signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Send sick workers home or to seek medical care.”
  • “Closely monitor and take additional precautions regarding employees and residents who may have been exposed to an individual with COVID-19.”
  • “Follow CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance on updating existing resident visitation policies.”
  • “Ask visitors to inform the facility if they develop a fever or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within 14 days of their visit.”
  • “Maintain at least six feet between workers, residents, and visitors, to the extent possible, including while workers perform their duties and during breaks.”
  • “Regularly clean and disinfect shared equipment and frequently touched surfaces in resident rooms, staff work stations, and common areas.”
  • “Continually monitor PPE [personal protective equipment] stocks, burn rate, and supply chains. Develop a process for decontamination and reuse of PPE, such as face shields and goggles, as appropriate. Follow CDC recommendations for optimization of PPE supplies.”
  • “Train workers about how to protect themselves and residents during the pandemic.”

Key Takeaways

  • This appears to be the first time that OSHA has recommended that employers screen the clients they serve, in this case residents, in addition to their workers or ask clients to notify facilities if they develop symptoms within 14 days of a visit.
  • Many nursing homes and long-term care facilities have banned visitors, as their residents are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. OSHA’s guidance does not recommend banning visitors.
  • COVID-19 has hit workers and residents in long-term care facilities and nursing homes particularly hard and received significant media attention, which likely prompted the issuance of the guidance.
  • According to OSHA’s COVID-19 Response Summary, as of May 17, 2020, the agency had received 211 COVID-19 complaints related to the nursing care facilities industry, which appears to be one of the industries with the highest number of complaints.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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