OSHA Revises its National Emphasis Program for Safer Precautions Against COVID-19
Changes and updates are made to the Interim Enforcement Response Program.
- By Shereen Hashem
- Jul 13, 2021
OSHA revised its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19. The NEP was created to focus on companies that put the largest number of workers at a high risk of contracting the disease and for employers that engage in retaliation against their employees who complain about unsafe or unhealthy conditions under OSHA. NEP was launched March 12, 2021.
The revised NEP (DIR 2021-03 (CPL 03), based on an evaluation of inspection and illness data, adjusts these targeted industries to those who are the most at risk for COVID-19 exposure. However, this includes healthcare and non-healthcare workers. The revised NEP removes the appendix of the previous program that provided a list of Secondary Target Industries, according to a press release. For the Inspection Procedures for the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, issued on June 28, 2021, healthcare inspections will follow this new directive.
The Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan outlines procedures that inspections in non-healthcare establishments must follow. The plan was published July 7, 2021. The updated interim enforcement response plan (IERP) replaces “the memorandum” from March 12, 2012. According to the press release, updates for the July 2021 IERP 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
- References to the revised NEP for COVID-19
The goals of the IERP are to tackle COVID-19 exposure hazards, to implement proper safety measures and to address OSHA violations. The updated IERP will remain in effect until further notice and will be time-limited to coronavirus. The ETS became effective June 21, 2021. Healthcare employers must abide by most of these provisions with training, ventilation and barrier provisions by July 21, 2021. To learn more click here.
Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.