The COVID-19 pandemic has left many in fear for their health and safety, especially for those battling this virus on the frontlines.
Thousands of healthcare workers have filed complaints about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in their workplace—such as masks and gloves—to help shield them from COVID-19. Hundreds have died because of this deficit and even more have been denied claims by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Researchers found that more than 4,100 complaints filed were closed by OSHA without any citations given. Of these thousands of complaints, only a single fine of $3,900 was issued to a Georgia nursing home that failed to report worker hospitalizations on time.
Between submitting the complaint and closing it, how these issues were addressed by OSHA remains unclear. And make no mistake that these closed claims have real consequences.
Nurses and doctors at Michigan’s McLaren Flint hospital are among those who have filed an OSHA complaint for being denied PPE and been ignored.
Roger Liddell, 64, was miraculously able to acquire PPE even during the shortage in March. But when he asked for a personal N95 mask, the hospital denied his request. He contracted COVID-19 on March 30 and died April 10.
Liddell’s coworker, Patrick Cain, was a registered nurse working outside a room with potential COVID-19 patients and treating visitors being tested for COVID-19. He died on April 4.
Since then, according to union members, the hospital has revised its policy to provide N95 masks and controlled air-purifying respirators (CAPRs) to workers on the COVID-19 floor.
At least 35 medical professionals have died of COVID-19 since OSHA began receiving safety complaints. All of these were quietly closed in June without word or citation. A third of these remain open—approximately 1,300 complaints from 275 different facilities.
To make a bad situation worse, reports show at least 21 of these closed complaints were made by workers threatened with the loss of their jobs if they spoke up about the lack of PPE.
For instance, workers at a hospital in Delaware said that wearing a personal N95 mask instead of a basic surgical mask “wasn’t allowed.” Several workers at a hospital located in Atlanta said they would be fired if they “raise[d] concerns about PPE when working with patients with COVID-19,” according to a KHN investigation.
Workers who are concerned about the safety of their workplace environment should continue raising concerns and submitting complaints to OSHA. No one’s life should be put in unnecessary risk while on the job, and everyone working on the frontlines to battle COVID-19 deserves PPE.
If you’re a professional healthcare worker and believe you’ve contracted COVID-19 while on the job, immediately notify your supervisor.
If your supervisor isn’t willing to work with you, contact an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer today. Gerber & Holder attorneys are here to discuss and file a claim so you can get the treatment and benefits you deserve.
We are taking measures to ensure the safety and protection of our attorneys and staff. We want you to know that we will fight to do the same for you when you schedule an appointment today for a free initial consultation with one of our legal advisors.