A Complaint Has Been Filed Against You: Cal/OSHA in the Season of COVID-19

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 caught the personal protective equipment (PPE) storehouses in short supply. In turn, the supply versus demand issues have generated complaints from healthcare workers in acute care settings about the lack of PPE and the real or perceived risk of COVID-19 exposure. Many of these complaints are directed to the regulatory body that enforces the state’s mandated illness, injury, and aerosol transmittable diseases prevention programs, commonly known as Cal/OSHA – technically, the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

As the private sector reopens, employees in medical office settings are making similar complaints as their hospital counterparts, which can generate a Cal/OSHA complaint letter to the business (your medical practice). Failure to respond results in an unscheduled inspection of your workplace and can result in fines if violations are found.  A copy of the Cal/OSHA complaint must be posted in a prominent location for three working days, or until the hazard complained about (if true) is corrected – so all the staff know about it. The rules allow for anonymous complaints. 

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Most of the complaints are the “employer is not providing PPE for COVID-19.”  So, what are these rules and what must you do to comply?

In short, you’ll find these rules in the California Code of Regulations under Title 8, which has more words than a small town’s phone book. While the total depth of that rule is beyond the scope of this commentary, you need to know that at its core insofar as COVID-19 is concerned, it’s all about PPE and infection control. It’s the stuff you’re already doing, but have you written it down in case Cal/OSHA wants to pay you a visit? For example – do you have a written policy addressing:

Training of all employees on the use of PPE provided by the employer

A log of that training 

Mandated use of PPE in all clinical areas

Use of PPE in nonclinical areas except when at a personal workstation, during meals and breaks provided the employee maintains a six foot or greater distance from others

Mandatory use of masks when entering and exiting the building

Disinfection of clinical and non-clinical areas, work surfaces, and frequent contact points, i.e. doorknobs

Other practices specific to your office like thermal scanning, having patients wait outside to limit the number in the reception area, etc.  

A log of work related illnesses – such as if a staff member test COVID positive and claims to have contracted it at work – referred to as Form 300. You can find it at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/doshreg/apndxa300final.pdf

Electronic submission of workplace injury/illness records annually – more on that at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/calosha-updates/log300-reporting.html

Periodic monitoring of CDC recommendations on PPE and healthcare worker exposures. The most recent bulletin is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-risk-assesment-hcp.html

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, OSHA 3990-03 2020    

 

Lee McMullin is a Senior Risk Management and Patient Safety Specialist for CAP. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to lmcmullin@CAPphysicians.com.