On Safety

On Safety: A look at OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on COVID-19

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Normally, before launching an NEP, OSHA would conduct 90 days of outreach. For this NEP, OSHA is waiving this requirement, as the agency determined that outreach and guidance was already provided over the past year. OSHA will, however, continue to provide outreach during the course of the NEP.

What OSHA will hold employers accountable for, surprisingly, is not directly spelled out in the directive. However, also on March 12, OSHA issued a revised enforcement guide that outlines what the agency will be pursing under the NEP.

Under this enforcement guide, OSHA will focus on:

The General Duty Clause is a key element of this list. OSHA will, under the clause, expect employers to develop and implement an exposure (infection) control plan. Depending on the level of risk, the plan can be simple or expansive. 

The first step in developing an ECP is to determine the level of risk, which will determine where an establishment stands in regard to the NEP. Refer to Appendices A and B of the NEP and determine if an establishment has been identified through the industry NAICS code as high risk by OSHA and therefore subject to potential inspection. If an industry group is covered in Appendices A and B, it should develop an ECP and examine its compliance with the standards listed above. 

If an NAICS code isn’t included in Appendices A and B, that establishment could still be subject to inspection and an ECP should be considered. The scope of the ECP for a facility at lower risk can be less comprehensive than a high-risk facility, but the risk will need to be assessed to determine the scope of the ECP. Refer to the risk guidance document provided by OSHA.


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