MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is penalizing the Braden River Rehabilitation Center and a company named Healthcare Services Group for violations.
They are facing violations including failure to put written respiratory protection programs in place and also for not implementing associated medical assessments and fit testing required for N95 masks.
The facility and healthcare group are two of 85 companies across the country cited for more than a million dollars in violations.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Braden River Rehabilitation Center will have to give up more than eight thousand dollars and Healthcare Services Group will have to pay more than nine thousand dollars.
Healthcare Services Group hires housekeepers, laundry and cooks for many long-term care facilities on the Suncoast.
“Peoples lives are at risk when you have respiratory issues, the 5th most cited OSHA complaint across the entire workforce of America," said Jerry Zivic, an advocate for the elderly. "People’s lives are always at risk, these laws are to protect people’s lives.”
For more information on the complete list of companies and fines, visit the OSHA website by clicking here.
Here’s the full statement from Southern Healthcare Management, the company overseeing Braden River Rehabilitation Center:
Please know that recent articles or statements regarding the OSHA citation received by Braden River Rehabilitation Center contains several factual errors and lack crucial factual context. These inaccuracies give the impression that current conditions at the Center led to OSHA’s citation and fines. This is incorrect, and we ask any article you publish or have published reflect the following facts.
In March, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our Braden River employees contracted COVID-19 and tragically passed away. Although we had no way of knowing whether the employee contracted the virus at Braden River, out of an abundance of caution, we self-reported that employee’s death to OSHA. That self-reporting led to an OSHA investigation that began in April and recently concluded with Braden River’s full cooperation.
Relatedly, as early as March, Braden River began mandating the use of N95 masks for certain employees as a part of its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Prior to arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Braden River employees had never been required to wear N95 masks, and the Center was unaware that such masks are considered “respirators” by OSHA. As we have now learned, OSHA requires employers who mandate the use of “respirators” (like N95 masks) to adopt a formal respiratory protection program. While the Center was unaware that mandating the use of N95 masks carried additional obligations in accordance with OSHA’s regulations, at all times, Braden River ensured that its employees had and used needed PPE.
As part of its investigation, OSHA pointed out potential violations related to the absence of a written respiratory protection plan, including the lack of medical evaluations for respirator use and fit testing. By the time of OSHA’s onsite inspection in September – which was the final step in its investigation – all technical violations had long been abated in full.
Thus, OSHA’s recent citation relates solely to Braden River’s failure to adopt a formal respiratory protection program and implement associated medical assessments and fit testing required for N95 masks. The citation and fine were not, as some articles have indicated] a result of any findings by OSHA during its September visit, and they do not reflect any current concerns by OSHA about the operations of Braden River.
When the COVID-19 pandemic initially struck Florida, Braden River was among those nursing homes that suffered an outbreak. A number of our residents and staff became ill or passed away, and our thoughts are with them every day. Since then, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Braden River team – efforts that continue to this day – the Center has provided a safe, loving, and caring home for our valued residents.