OSHA’s National Emphasis Program (NEP) to Address COVID-19: What You Need to Know

On March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP), a focused strategy with the goal of protecting employees in high-hazard industries from contracting SARS-CoV-2. It is effective immediately and will remain in effect until March 12, 2022.

What does this latest news from OSHA mean for workplaces? It means that the agency will focus their enforcement efforts on COVID-19 related inspections, and they will prioritize companies and specific industries that put the largest number of workers at risk of contracting the virus. Healthcare is at the top of the list in terms of priority.  

The National Law Review reports two lists of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes in general industry. These lists were created based on OSHA’s data and have the highest number of workers expected to perform tasks associated with COVID-19 exposure.

  • List #1 includes healthcare industry employers – physicians and dentists offices; hospitals; facilities for nursing, assisted living and retirement; home healthcare services and ambulance services
  • List #2 includes non-healthcare industry employers – meat and poultry processing; grocery stores; discount department stores; general warehouse and storage; restaurants; correctional institutions and temporary health services

Inspections of employers in these target industries will begin on March 26, 2021 using a phased approach. Priority will be given based on the following:

  1. Unprogrammed inspections of fatalities, referrals and complaints based on allegations of worker exposures.
  2. Follow-up inspections of worksites inspected in 2020.
  3. Programmed inspections on high-hazard industries mentioned above.

There will also be a Regional Whistleblower Protection Program established by area offices serving as a referral program for workers who request inspections, complain of COVID-19 exposure or report illness, injury or retaliation.

If you have any questions about workplace guidance on COVID-19 from OSHA, contact the Risk Management Team at Rose & Kiernan, Inc. here or by calling (800) 242-4433.  

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