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On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration revised its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19. The agency launched the NEP on March 12, 2021, with the stated purpose to “focus on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus, and on employers that engage in retaliation against employees who complain about unsafe or unhealthful conditions or exercise other rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act”. Based on an evaluation of inspection and illness data, the revised NEP, adjusts the targeted industries to those the agency has identified as most at risk for COVID-19 exposure, and continues to include industries such as warehousing and meat and poultry processing. The revised NEP removes an appendix that provided a list of Secondary Target Industries for the former COVID-19 NEP. Inspections in non-healthcare establishments will follow procedures outlined in the Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan published July 7, 2021. The updated interim enforcement response plan (IERP) replaces the memorandum dated March 12, 2021. The goals of the IERP are to identify exposures to COVID-19 hazards, ensure appropriate control measures are implemented, and address violations of OSHA standards (other than the ETS) and the General Duty Clause. It is important to note that the updated NEP emphasizes the importance of protecting unvaccinated workers through the use of masks and physical distancing and directs inspectors to use the General Duty Clause to ensure that employers are taking appropriate measures to mitigate COVID-19 hazards posed to unvaccinated workers. 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.
Read the revised NEP HERE.
Read the updated interim enforcement response plan procedures for non-healthcare establishments HERE.