New pandemic guidance on healthcare workplace safety could provide more clarity for providers and workers in long-term care, according to a leading expert.

President Joe Biden late last week signed an executive order directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order calls on the agency to issue the revisions to employers within the next two weeks and to consider whether any emergency temporary standards are necessary.

Lori Porter

Workers in long-term care, particularly certified nursing assistants, are one board with the move, according to Lori Porter, co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants. 

“CNAs, on the whole, would welcome anything that would create an atmosphere for the protection of themselves against the spread of COVID-19,” Porter told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Tuesday. 

Porter explained that current guidance doesn’t address possible provider penalties. She noted that it also doesn’t account for how different long-term care is from other types of healthcare industries.

“One of the things that will be interesting is the staffing ratios, in terms of will they take into account the resident-to-certified nursing assistant staffing ratio as it pertains to workplace safety and health and safety?” she said. “That is what will remain to be seen.” 

Porter stated that unclear sufficient staffing ratio measures from the federal level swats at potential solutions to address the issue. She said “that will likely have to be defined if it’s really going to be applicable to OSHA and skilled nursing.” 

“SNFs run differently than most occupationally hazardous factories, plants, construction or those type of areas because it’s easier to define. With the regulatory system that we currently have in place it will be interesting to see what will be the measuring tool OSHA will use to measure compliance in skilled nursing,” she explained. 

Porter also urged the federal government to recognize and reward SNFs for progressive actions they’ve taken during the pandemic in order to safely sustain operations. 

“Most anything that happens in skilled nursing is looked upon as a punishment,” she said. “I really believe it’s time now that SNFs be rewarded for taking progressive action, being more progressive than reactive, in terms of how they operate.” 

“Skilled nursing needs to be rewarded for using great products, tools and resources rather than penalized for being outside compliance,” she added. “It’s time for our country to lift up nursing homes rather than punish them any further.”