OSHA Releases COVID-19 National Emphasis Program
On March 12, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a national emphasis program (NEP) for COVID-19. OSHA establishes NEPs when it identifies a need to focus its resources to address particular hazards and high-hazard industries.
This NEP will remain in effect for one year until March 12, 2022, but OSHA has the ability to amend or cancel the program as needed.
The COVID-19 NEP
Prior OSHA guidance primarily addressed mitigating and limiting the spread of COVID-19. This NEP prioritizes the use of OSHA resources to eliminate and control workplace exposure to COVID-19.
OSHA intends to favor the use of on-site workplace inspections to enforce compliance with this NEP. However, at its discretion, OSHA will conduct remote inspections if on-site inspections cannot be performed safely. OSHA has updated its interim enforcement response plan to reflect these new areas of focus.
With the release of this NEP, OSHA has also stated it will focus enforcement efforts on employers that are not making good faith efforts to protect workers. OSHA will use reports of work-related deaths and hospitalizations to allocate enforcement resources. To this end, this NEP encourages workers to raise concerns when they perceive employers are failing to protect them from COVID-19.
Employers should familiarize themselves with OSHA’s COVID-19 NEP, implementing all policies, measures and procedures necessary for compliance with OSHA regulations. Employers are encouraged to visit OSHA’s COVID-19 website for guidance on how to comply with workplace safety requirements.