Cal/OSHA has cited six Bay Area employers including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and a police department for failing to protect their employees from COVID-19. The employers listed below were cited for various health and safety violations including some classified as serious, with proposed penalties ranging from $2,060 to $32,000.
The employers were cited for not protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 because they did not take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus.
Several occupational safety and health standards, including Cal/OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard adopted in 1992 and the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard adopted in 2009, address worker protections such as proper respiratory protection when exposure to airborne diseases including COVID-19 may occur in a health care setting.
The ATD standard applies to hospital workers and emergency medical services, as well as workers in skilled nursing facilities, biological laboratories, workers performing cleaning and decontamination, and public safety employees who may be exposed to infectious disease hazards. The employers cited allegedly failed to comply with the ATD standard.
Cal/OSHA claims the Santa Rosa Police Department failed to implement required screening and referral procedures for persons exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms during the month of March 2020, and failed to report to Cal/OSHA multiple serious illnesses suffered by employees who contracted COVID-19. An employee died from COVID-19 after being exposed by another employee who had exhibited signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Cal/OSHA did not learn of the fatality until two weeks after the death.
Cal/OSHA determined that the Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center skilled nursing facility in Hayward exposed nurses and housekeeping workers to COVID-19 when it failed to follow requirements for providing necessary personal protective equipment.
Sutter Bay Hospitals’ CPMC Davies Campus did not ensure their health care workers in the administrative medical offices and security guards in the emergency department wore respiratory protection. In one incident, a suspect COVID-19 patient underwent a medical procedure in the operating room while medical staff did not have N95 masks or other proper protection.
Cal/OSHA inspectors determined that the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s hospital on South Bascom failed to provide effective training for its employees. The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center on North Jackson Avenue was also cited for failing to provide clear communication to their health care workers who were deployed to two skilled nursing facilities. The workers were exposed to COVID-19 suspect and confirmed patients at the Ridge Post-Acute and Canyon Springs Post-Acute facilities. Neither of the skilled nursing facilities trained the deployed health care workers.
Cal/OSHA has created guidance for many industries in multiple languages including videos, daily checklists and detailed guidelines on how to protect workers from the virus. This guidance provides a roadmap for employers on their existing obligations to protect workers from COVID-19.