Three nursing homes in Ohio received a citation by the U.S. labor agency in charge of enforcing safe working conditions after it said the facilities had “serious” violations in their coronavirus protections.
It is only the second citation the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has given out during the coronavirus pandemic.
OSHA on Tuesday issued citations against Pebble Creek Health Care Center in Akron, Salem West Healthcare Center and Salem North Health Care Center, which are all under the umbrella company CommuniCare.
They were in "serious" violation of two respiratory protection standards, according to OSHA. The penalty was $40,482.
The nursing homes failed to develop a written respiratory protection program, which would include information on worksite specific procedures, program evaluation, inspection and more to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the agency said.
OSHA also said the homes did not provide evaluations to determine employees' ability to use a respirator.
“OSHA’s investigation found that, although the company was making efforts to protect its employees from the coronavirus, it had not fully implemented an appropriate respiratory protection program,” OSHA Cleveland Area Office Director Howard Eberts said in a news release. “Employers are and will continue to be responsible for providing a workplace free of serious recognized hazards."
OSHA issued a Hazard Alert regarding the company's practice of allowing N95 respirators to be used for up to seven days. The homes were fined more than $40,000.
The agency initially investigated the nursing homes after they reported seven of their employees had tested positive for the coronavirus.
OSHA has come under fire repeatedly for not doing enough to respond to worker's complaints about inadequate safety measures, including in health care facilities, supermarkets and meatpacking plants.
The only other citation the agency issued throughout the pandemic was at a Georgia nursing home after it failed to report that six of its employees had the coronavirus, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia told lawmakers in May.
OSHA has received more than 6,000 complaints nationwide about unsafe work conditions related to COVID-19, according to reports by the Tampa Bay Times. More than half of those complaints have come from the health care industry.