OSHA issues COVID-19 temporary standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect health care workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19. The ETS applies, with some exceptions, to health care settings where people may share space with COVID-19 patients or interact with others who do. The ETS requires health care employers to develop and implement a COVID-19 plan that identifies and controls COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. 

CMS issues guidelines on emergency preparedness 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued guidance related to emergency preparedness exemptions, stating that if a “facility claimed the full-scale exercise exemption in 2020 based on its activated emergency plan and has since resumed normal operating status, the inpatient provider/supplier is expected to complete its required full-scale exercise in 2021.” The CMS worksheet presents guidance for surveyors, as well as providers and suppliers, on assessing a facility’s compliance with the elements of performance requirements, in light of many of the response activities associated with COVID-19.

The Joint Commission reverses sprinkler decision

The Joint Commission has reversed a change made last year regarding standards for spare stock of sprinklers in health care facilities. The revision revolves around Life Safety Standard LS.02.01.35, element of performance (EP) 7, for hospitals, critical access hospitals and behavioral health care organizations. The change would have required facilities to store at least six spare sprinkler heads of each type and temperature rating installed in the facility. However, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issued a formal interpretation of the standard, prompting The Joint Commission to reverse its interpretation to be in line with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. 

CMS will continue survey flexibility for surge states

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) says it will continue to remain flexible in its approach to surveys if a hospital experiences a COVID-19 surge. CMS says it will evaluate hospitals that are experiencing a COVID-19 surge for temporary suspension of survey activities based on several considerations, including notification/request for assistance from the appropriate state public health agency, with the first priority for the hospital being to ensure they have the resources available to manage the surge.