On March 12, 2021, OSHA released its new temporary COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) that will expand its inspection and enforcement efforts to protect workers at high risk for contracting COVID-19. The NEP targets certain industries and worksites that the agency considers “high-hazard” environments and is effective immediately.
OSHA developed a list of primary and secondary targeted industries for NEP inspection and enforcement based on workplaces with an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure as well as workplaces with an increased number of COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and incident reports:
Primary Targeted Industries
Targeted industries in healthcare include doctors’ and dentists’ offices, home health care services, ambulance services, general medical and surgical hospitals, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, specialty hospitals, nursing care facilities, residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and assisted living facilities for the elderly.
Targeted industries for non-healthcare include meat processing facilities, animal slaughtering facilities, poultry processing facilities, supermarkets and grocery stores, discount department stores, general warehousing and storage facilities, temporary help services, full- and limited-services restaurants, and correctional institutions.
Secondary Targeted Industries
OSHA’s list of secondary targeted industries is lengthy and includes non-healthcare essential workers who are likely to have the highest frequency of close contact exposures to the public or to coworkers resulting from their on-site work-related duties. Some of the industries include construction, food and beverage manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, plastics and rubber manufacturing, and metal manufacturing, as well as transportation systems.
NEP Inspection Process
Typically, an OSHA inspection begins with an opening conference followed by a document review, walk-through, interviews, and a closing conference. The NEP provides specific COVID-19-related guidance for this inspection process and issuing citations. In addition, OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) are required to advise employees of their rights under the agency’s anti-retaliation program, distribute anti-retaliation literature during inspections, and refer any allegations of retaliation to OSHA’s whistleblower protection program.
Employers are encouraged to read our previous post on how to avoid OSHA citations related to COVID-19.
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