Cleveland, Ohio-based health care company OHNH EMP LLC was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and fined more than $40,000 in penalties for violating respiratory protection standards following an inspection initiated after the company reported seven employees were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Three OHNH locations were inspected — Pebble Creek Healthcare Center in Akron, and Salem West Healthcare Center and Salem North Healthcare Center, both in Salem. All three are nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus, a virus that is especially dangerous to elderly and vulnerable individuals who reside in skilled nursing facilities.

All three facilities were cited with a serious violation of two respiratory protection standards — failing to develop a comprehensive written respiratory protection program, and failing to provide medical evaluations to determine employees’ ability to use a respirator in the workplace. OSHA also issued a Hazard Alert Letter after finding employees were in the practice of allowing N95 respirators to be used for up to a week and for not conducting initial fit testing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), N95 respirators should not be worn for multiple work shifts and should not be reused after extended use.

“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 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.'”

Beasley Allen handles a variety of cases related to workplace safety. While all workers should be guaranteed a safe working environment, all too often we handle cases of serious injuries and deaths resulting from a hazardous work environment. Many times our investigation reveals defective or dangerous machinery was involved, or employers failed to provide adequate protections or ignored safety regulations. If you need more information, contact Kendall Dunson or Evan Allen, lawyers in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section who handle workplace litigation for our firm.

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