OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) March 12 focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put workers at serious risk of contracting COVID-19.
This program, which comes a little more than a year into the pandemic, will also prioritize employers that retaliate against workers for making complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
OSHA has “a moral obligation to do what we can to protect workers, especially for the many who have no other protection,” OSHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Frederick said in a news release.
Inspections conducted under the NEP are meant to enhance the agency’s previous COVID-19 enforcement efforts.
The NEP will also include follow-up inspections of some worksites inspected “during the Trump administration as part of a wider effort to better protect workers from the pandemic,” according to Reuters.
OSHA says the program “ensures abatement” and will include monitoring of the effectiveness of the agency’s enforcement and guidance efforts.
This NEP will remain in effect for up to one year, although OSHA can amend or cancel the program, if needed.
Many OSHA state plans have already adopted varying requirements and similar programs to the NEP for protecting workers from the coronavirus, and the federal agency is encouraging the rest to adopt its new program.
State plans that do adopt the new NEP must notify federal OSHA of their intention to adopt the program within 60 days of its issuance.
Prioritizing on-site inspections
OSHA also updated its pandemic Interim Enforcement Response Plan to prioritize use of on-site inspections where practical, or a combination of on-site and remote methods.
Remote-only inspections will only be used if the agency determines an on-site inspection can’t be conducted safely.
A May 26, 2020, memorandum on the response will be rescinded March 18, 2021, when the new guidance will go into effect until further notice.