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OSHA Releases COVID-19 National Emphasis Program

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.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a new National Emphasis Program to increase inspections and address hazards related to COVID-19 in the workplace. This is good news for those of us who have been wanting more guidance from OSHA on how to protect our workers from this virus.

The new emphasis program will focus on workplaces where employees are at a high risk for exposure to COVID-19, such as healthcare facilities, meatpacking plants, and grocery stores. OSHA will also prioritize inspections of workplaces with a history of violations related to respiratory protection and personal protective equipment.

This is a good first step from OSHA, but there are still some key questions that need to be answered. For example, what specifically will OSHA be looking for during these inspections? And what kind of fines or other penalties can we expect if our workplace is found to be out of compliance? Hopefully we’ll get some answers soon.

Overall, this new emphasis program from OSHA is a positive development. It shows that the agency is taking COVID-19 seriously and is committed to protecting workers from exposure to the virus. We’ll be closely following this story and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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.

Next Steps

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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.

 

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