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Washington state tightens COVID-19 hospital worker safety guidelines

Photo credit: iStock.com/Feverpitched

Health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic have risked their health, lives and livelihoods during the ongoing public health crisis that has killed over 200,000 Americans this year. Safety guidelines designed to keep them safe have at times fallen short or been ignored to the detriment of the hospital workers.

To that end, Washington state’s departments of labor and industries (L&I) and health (DOH) have updated and clarified guidelines required of hospitals to limit the transmission of COVID-19 to staff and patients.

The Washington state Hazard Alert issued on Sept. 17 covers the full gambit of hospital safety measures, ranging from employee training, social distancing to proper use of respirators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and infection control protocols.

“Health care workers are on the front lines of the pandemic caring for others,” said Anne Soiza, L&I assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). “This Hazard Alert spells out what hospitals must do to take care of all of their workers to prevent them from getting infected on the job.”

Specific hospital requirements outlined in the hazard alert include the replacement of disposable respirators and masks at the start of each shift and upon request from employees when the equipment becomes soiled or damaged during the shift.

The new guidelines come in the wake of a number of lawsuits by health care workers expressing safety concerns.

Thousands of nurses in Washington state blew the whistle on unsafe working conditions in the early weeks of the pandemic.

A doctor in Bellingham sued his employer in May, claiming wrongful termination after he publicized concerns on his Facebook page and with reporters about inadequate coronavirus safety measures taken to protect colleagues and patients at the hospital where he worked.

Legal experts expect a wave of similar whistleblower retaliation lawsuits related to COVID-19

If you have coronavirus-related questions, or need advice about L&I, workers’ comp or other employment law claims, contact the attorneys at Emery ReddyWe help workers.

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