OSHA has cited an Ohio healthcare company for alleged serious violations of respirator regulations following an inspection initiated after the company reported the coronavirus-related hospitalization of seven employees.
OSHA proposed $40,082 in penalties after inspectors found that the employer committed two violations of the respirator standard. Though N95 respirators were provided to the healthcare workers, it’s important for employers to remember that OSHA regulations extend beyond simply providing PPE.
Why The Healthcare Company Was Cited
The two alleged violations of the respirator standard are that the employer (1) failed to have a written respirator program, and (2) failed to provide medical evaluations to determine employees’ ability to use a respirator in the workplace.
According to OSHA’s press release, each of the employer’s three healthcare facilities were cited for the same two violations.
“It is critically important that employers take action to protect their employees during the pandemic, including by implementing effective respiratory protection programs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.
OSHA’s swift enforcement actions against the Ohio employer could suggest an enforcement increase of standards that protect against the risks of COVID-19. This action also shows that OSHA is holding employers accountable to the technical aspects of the regulations, which encompass a wide scope of obligations. Without attending to the details of each standard, it’s easy to inadvertently violate a regulation.
In the press release, Sweatt continued, “OSHA has and will continue to vigorously enforce the respiratory protection standard and all standards that apply to the coronavirus. As Secretary Scalia has said, ‘the cop is on the beat.'”
Enforcing the Respiratory Standard
In fiscal year 2019, respiratory protection finished fifth on the list among OSHA’s top-10 most-cited violations.
Five hundred eighteen (518) violations occurred because employees did not receive medical evaluations to determine their ability to use respirators. For some, wearing a respirator impairs breathing, especially for older employees or those with asthma. It also affects vision and triggers panic attacks.
Thus, employees must be evaluated before they are fit tested, according to OSHA standard 1910.134(e)(1). That section states that “the employer shall provide a medical evaluation to determine the employee’s ability to use a respirator, before the employee is fit tested or required to use a respirator in the workplace.”
Even if the respirator is only used for a short period of time, it may trigger breathing difficulties and claustrophobia.
Evaluating and fitting employers out of order can lead to steep OSHA fines — up to $13,260 per violation for serious violations, and up to $132,598 for repeat or willful violations.
Get Your Respirator Clearances Online Today
At Worksite Medical, we make respirator standard medical clearances easy and fast.
Get started online right now with these easy steps:
- Complete your respirator clearance questionnaire on a computer or mobile device, then submit;
- The completed respirator clearance questionnaire will be reviewed by our staff PLHCP Medical Provider;
- A respirator clearance certificate will be issued to you instantly, if successful.
Respirator clearance classifications include:
- Class I: No restrictions on respirator use.
- Class II: Respirator use for Emergency Response or Escape Only
- Class III: Respirator use is not permitted
Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Keep your company and your employees in compliance with onsite medical surveillance testing.