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OSHA extends emphasis program on COVID-19

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Washington — Citing data that shows hospitalizations “may increase significantly in the coming weeks,” OSHA has extended its revised National Emphasis Program on COVID-19 until further notice.

The NEP is designed to ensure “employees in high-hazard industries or work tasks are protected” from contracting COVID-19. Those industries include health care and meat and poultry processing. The program was originally set to expire July 7.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported increasing coronavirus hospitalization rates nationwide since mid-April, and data forecasts that hospitalizations may increase significantly in the coming weeks,” OSHA says in a press release. “This increase in hospitalizations reinforces the need for OSHA to continue prioritizing inspections at workplaces with a higher potential for coronavirus exposures, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other health care and emergency response providers treating patients with coronavirus.”

 

The NEP – revised in July 2021 to include the agency’s emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 for health care workers – also focuses on COVID-19-related complaints, referrals and severe incident reports.

OSHA is temporarily increasing its COVID-19 inspection goal to 10% of all inspections from 5%. From March 2021 to this past March, the first year of the NEP, COVID-19 inspections accounted for 7% of all inspections.

The agency has issued about 1,200 COVID-19-related citations since the pandemic began in February 2020, with assessed penalties totaling around $7.2 million.

OSHA notes that it has “obtained relief for more than 400 employees who filed coronavirus retaliation claims against employers, exceeding $5 million in monetary awards to employees.”

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