Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – One of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragedies it’s caused has been long-term care facilities throughout the country.
Along with patient safety in these settings, the health and well-being of workers has also emerged as an important issue and one that’s spurred the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to produce guidance stressing the importance of personal protective equipment and engineering and administrative controls to keep the virus in check.
Here are some highlights from the guidance and what OSHA is hoping nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and similar settings remain focused on during the duration of the pandemic.
Area of Focus
|Engineering and administrative controls||Hand hygiene, physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfection of surfaces can help facilities avoid over-reliance on respirators and personal protective equipment.|
|Using respirators properly||Whenever respirators are required, employers must implement a written, worksite-specific respiratory protection program that includes:
|Cloth face coverings||Cloth face coverings should be worn instead of FDA-cleared or authorized surgical masks if protection against exposure to splashes and sprays of infectious materials is needed. They aren’t considered PPE, but because they can assist in source controls, facility visitors should wear cloth face coverings to reduce COVID-19 transmission.|
|Facemasks||Although some facemasks look like surgical masks, if they aren’t FDA cleared, they don’t provide fluid assistance. Instead they function more like a cloth face covering and should be used to assist in source control. As an example, a respirator that has not undergone rigorous fit testing would be a facemask that primarily helps with source control.|
|Surgical masks||These masks are either cleared or authorized for emergency use by the FDA. While they offer both source control and protection for the wearer against splashes and sprays, they don’t fall under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard as they are loose-fitting and might expose the wearer to airborne hazards.|
|Respirators||Health care providers who are in close contact with patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection must use an N95 respirator that follows the standards of 29 CFR 1910.134.