OSHA has revised its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19 that was launched March 12, 2021. Initially the NEP focused on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. It also focused on employers that engage in retaliation against employees who complain about unsafe/unhealthful conditions or exercise other rights under the OSH Act.

The revised NEP (DIR 2021-03 (CPL 03) adjusts the targeted industries to those who are most at risk for COVID-19 exposure, still including both healthcare and non-healthcare workers. It also removes an appendix providing a list of Secondary Target Industries that the previous NEP included.

For inspections in healthcare, the revised NEP refers compliance safety and health officers to the new directive, Inspection Procedures for the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard [DIR 2021-02 (CPL 02)], issued on June 28, 2021.

For inspections in non-healthcare, the Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan published July 7, 2021, outlines procedures these establishments must follow and replaces the memo dated March 12, 2021. Updates include:

  • Enforcing protections for workers in non-healthcare industries who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated;
  • Where respirator supplies and services are readily available, OSHA will stop exercising enforcement discretion for temporary noncompliance with the Respiratory Protection standard based on employers’ claims of supply shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • OSHA will no longer exercise enforcement discretion for the same requirements in other health standards, where full compliance may have been difficult for some non-healthcare employers due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Updated instructions and guidance for OSHA area offices and CSHOs for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports;
  • Ensuring workers are protected from retaliation; and
  • References to the revised NEP for COVID-19.

The goals of the IERP include: 1) identify exposures to COVID-19 hazards, 2) ensure appropriate control measures are implemented, and 3) address violations of OSHA standards (other than the ETC) and the General Duty Clause.

  • The updated IERP will remain in effect until further notice and is intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 public health crisis.
  • The ETS became effective June 21, 2021. Healthcare employers must comply with most provisions by July 6, 2021, and with training, ventilation and barrier provisions by July 21, 2021.
  • More about the COVID-19 Healthcare ETS.
  • Press Release

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