The Nuts and Bolts of OSHA's National Emphasis Program (NEP)
On March 12, 2021, OSHA's COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) went into effect. This new program permits employees to report COVID-related complaints to OSHA, potentially triggering compliance inspections.
Additionally, as of March 26, OSHA began targeting programmed inspections in industries that pose the greatest risk of exposure to workers. If an employer does business in a state with its own State Plan, that state has until May 12 to accept or reject adaptation of OSHA's NEP.
Targeted Industries and Employee Protection
The NEP states in Appendix A and B that the program's priorities are in industries and establishments where workers may be subject to increased potential exposure to COVID-19.
The program also ensures employers in these industries are not subjecting employees to retaliation upon reporting and provides anti-retaliation information through OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program during inspections.
Inspections and Guidelines
There are three types of inspections deployed as a part of the NEP, these include:
- Unprogrammed inspections resulting from a fatality/catastrophe, complaint, or referral.
- Follow-up inspections resulting from previous inspections triggered by a COVID-19 related fatality and/or citation.
- Programmed Inspections*, which are planned inspections targeting high-hazard industries or those pre-identified per OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting (SST).
*Employers participating in cooperative programs may be exempt from programmed inspections.
OSHA encourages employers to implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program. While this program may overlap with other relevant programs (i.e., PPE, Respiratory Protection), it should address the following specific elements:
- Assignment of a workplace coordinator.
- Conducting a hazard assessment (where and how workers might be exposed).
- Identifying a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Implementing physical distancing (installation of barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained).
- Suppressing the spread by providing and enforcing the use of appropriate face coverings.
Additionally, there are some basic considerations to address as well:
- Implementation of additional protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness (through supportive policies and practices).
- Communication of training, educational resources and visual aids in a language your employees understand.
- Instructing workers who are infected or potentially infected to stay home and isolate/quarantine.
- Implementing onsite screening, testing and tracking protocols if possible.
- Recording COVID-19 infections and deaths on the OSHA 300 log (deaths require immediate notification to OSHA within 8 hours, hospitalizations require notification within 24 hours).
Talk to a trusted RCM&D advisor today with any questions on OSHA's new National Emphasis Program.