Exterior U.S. Department of Labor

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will increase inspections of long-term care providers, including home health agencies, until further notice. The National Emphasis Program for COVID-19 expired Thursday.

OSHA also said it is temporarily increasing its coronavirus inspection goal from 5% of inspections to 10% while it works to formalize a permanent COVID-19 healthcare standard. The agency said it is raising the inspection goal due to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of spikes in coronavirus hospitalization rates nationwide since mid-April. Data also indicates that hospitalizations could increase significantly in the coming weeks.

OSHA said the increased hospitalizations “reinforces the need to continue prioritizing inspections at workplaces with a higher potential for coronavirus exposures, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other healthcare and emergency response providers treating patients with coronavirus.”

The agency wants to adopt a permanent standard based on the emergency temporary standard that was issued in January of 2021. The agency is also working on a rule for an infectious disease standard to prepare for future outbreaks.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in February of 2020, OSHA has issued 1,200 coronavirus-related citations to employers with penalties totaling approximately $7.2 million. More than 400 employees who filed retaliation claims against employers under the agency’s whistleblower program have received monetary awards exceeding $5 million.

OSHA has been getting tougher on employers who violate workplace safety rules. In January, it announced it was increasing fines 6% per violation.