March 22, 2021

OSHA Launches New National Emphasis Program—What Is It?

On March 19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a national emphasis program (NEP) that will focus the agency’s enforcement efforts on companies and specific industries that have demonstrated the highest risk of spread of COVID-19.

The agency said the NEP seeks “to substantially reduce or eliminate coronavirus exposure for workers in companies where risks are high, and to protect workers who raise concerns that their employer is failing to protect them from the risks of exposure.” The program dictates that “inspections should be conducted in a manner to achieve expeditious issuance of COVID-19 related citations and abatement.”

The NEP also alluded to a potential Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19-related safety that could soon be coming from OSHA. Specifically, the NEP said, “In the event that OSHA issues an [ETS], those provisions will take precedence over citations of the general duty clause.” More information on the NEP can be found here.

OSHA also has issued an updated response plan for COVID-19 that provides new guidance for handling COVID-19 related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. According to a press release, “OSHA will only use remote-only inspections if the agency determines that on-site inspections cannot be performed safely.” This new memorandum rescinds May 26, 2020 enforcement guidance. Click here for more information.