John O’Connor

It’s no secret that most operators have been struggling lately. The coronavirus has hammered this field in almost every way possible.

Thousands of residents and staff have perished, with the prospect of more to come. The task of finding adequate protective equipment has ranged from being extremely difficult to being virtually impossible. Costs for almost every budget item have risen, while revenues have bottomed out. And by the way, this sector continues to be maligned and ridiculed by many media outlets, public officials and others who should know better.

So there’s that.

At times like these, it’s easy to forget that some good things are happening too.  Such as the way the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been doing its job. Or to be more accurate, has not been doing its job.

To say that OSHA has taken a laissez-faire approach to the COVID-19 pandemic would be an extreme understatement. For all practical purposes, the organization has shut down.

So far, more than 6,000 workplace-related complaints have been filed since the pandemic began. Care to guess how many citations OSHA has issued in response? The answer isn’t zero, but it’s awfully close. In Congressional testimony last month, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the agency has issued one citation so far. Yes, one.

From the perspective of someone running a long-term care organization, that’s actually encouraging. In effect, the feds are staying off your back. One might even say OSHA has your back.

But here’s the thing: OSHA takes its marching orders from the White House. For the moment, that is a good reality for most operators. It’s well known that President Trump is no fan of regulatory oversight.

However, as things now stand, he is looking to lose in November’s election. At least, that’s what the polls are now telling us. (I know, I know, he was behind in the polls four years ago too. But not by nearly so huge a margin.)

To be sure, a lot can change in the next three-plus months. But if they don’t, there is a pretty good chance we will soon have a new commander in chief. And should Joe Biden win, you can be pretty sure OSHA is going to start responding to workplace complaints with far more interest and enthusiasm.

So here’s my advice to operators: Stay well and do all you can to weather COVID-19. And as far as OSHA’s restful slumber is concerned, enjoy it while it lasts.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.