Federal agencies Workplace exposures

OSHA revises National Emphasis Program on COVID-19, updates enforcement plan

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Washington — OSHA has revised its National Emphasis Program on COVID-19 and updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan.

According to a press release, the agency has included its emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 for health care workers in the NEP. OSHA also has removed Appendix B – a list of “secondary target industries” that include building construction, food manufacturing and chemical manufacturing. Meat and poultry processing is among the industries still covered by the NEP.

For non-health care establishments, OSHA inspectors will use the updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan published July 7. For health care establishments, the inspection procedures for the ETS apply. The agency issued those procedures June 28.

According to the release, revisions to the Interim Enforcement Response Plan include:

  • Enforcing protections for workers in non-health care 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 standard on respiratory protection based on employer claims of supply shortages as a result of the 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-health care employers because of the pandemic.
  • Updated instructions and guidance for OSHA area offices and inspectors for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.
  • Ensuring workers are protected from retaliation.

“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,” OSHA says. “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.”

 

The ETS applies to “settings where any employees provide health care or health care support services,” such as hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Some exceptions apply, however, including “non-hospital ambulatory care settings” where non-employees are screened for COVID-19 before entering and individuals suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19 are not allowed to enter.

OSHA has published a flowchart to help employers determine if their workplace is covered by the ETS.

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