Nursing homes have been a hotbed for the spread of coronavirus during the current pandemic, putting not only elderly residents but employees at these facilities in danger as well. In California, interim regulations have been put in place granting these employees the right to be protected at work if their job exposes them to Covid-19 or other airborne infectious diseases. Here is an overview of the current rights of protection for employees in California’s skilled nursing and long-term care facilities (Facilities).
Currently, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (better known as Cal/OSHA) protects employees by setting and enforcing standards to keep workers safe on the job. Under the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard, requirements are set to protect employees from diseases, including Covid-19, transmitted by aerosols. The ATD standard applies to Facilities. At these Facilities, the requirements for employee protection vary depending on whether the employer does or does not transfer suspected and confirmed Covid-19 positive patients to hospitals for airborne infection isolation.
Facilities Referring or Transferring Patients
Most Facilities transfer suspected and confirmed Covid-19 positive patients to hospitals, classifying these Facilities as “referring employers” under the ATD standard.
Requirements for Referring Employers Regarding Employee Protection
- Implement control procedures for cleaning and disinfecting work areas, vehicles, and equipment that may pose and employee infection risk.
- Provide and mandate employees use appropriate personal protective equipment and respiratory protection when entering an area where a suspected or confirmed patient is located if the patient is not wearing a mask.
- Offer employees vaccinations for seasonal flu and other specified diseases.
- Notify employees who had any significant exposure the date, time, and nature of the exposure.
- Provide medical evaluations to all employees with significant exposure – this includes vaccinations, prophylaxis, and treatment.
- Remove an employee from regular duty when recommended by a healthcare prof
essional or health officer if needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to other employees; the employer must maintain the removed employee’s earning, seniority, rights, and benefits – including right to their former job status.
- Train employees on Covid-19 signs, symptoms, and transmission, the method to screen patients, referral procedure for patients, procedures in place to protect employees and how to use PPE. As well as procedures for how to report incidents, and get vaccines, evaluations, and medical services.
Facilities Not Transferring Patients
If Facilities are unable to refer or transfer a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patient, all of the above requirements apply. Additionally, employers are required to isolate the patient in a timely manner and to:
- Provide any medical screening or surveillance recommended by the Department of Public Health or Local Health Department to employees to support early detection.
- Provide employees a fit-tested, NIOSH-approved respirator removing at least 95 percent of airborne particles (N95) whenever they are in the same area as the Covid-19 patient.
- Implement a respiratory protection program ensuring employees are medically evaluated for respirator use, fit-tested, and trained.
Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Lawyer
If you or a loved one are employed at a nursing home or skilled nursing facility and believe your rights have been violated during the coronavirus pandemic, contact the skilled San Diego nursing home attorneys at Walton Law today. Our attorneys have years of experience delivering aggressive, knowledgeable representation and have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (866) 338-7079 or complete our Contact Us page to schedule your no-risk, no obligation initial case evaluation today. The consultation is free, and you pay nothing until we win your case. Let our knowledgeable attorneys review your situation, help you understand your rights and options, and start working to ensure your rights are observed and you get the justice you deserve.