On March 12, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect workers at high risk of contracting the coronavirus. The NEP was launched in response to a January 21, 2021, Executive Order from President Joe Biden.
According to a news release, the new OSHA NEP will focus enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The program also prioritizes employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.
“This deadly pandemic has taken a staggering toll on U.S. workers and their families. We have a moral obligation to do what we can to protect workers, especially for the many who have no other protection,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “This program seeks to substantially reduce or eliminate coronavirus exposure for workers in companies where risks are high, and to protect workers who raise concerns that their employer is failing to protect them from the risks of exposure.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
Inspections under this new OSHA NEP will enhance the agency’s previous coronavirus enforcement efforts and will also include some follow-up inspections of worksites that were inspected in 2020.
The news release also notes that in a related action, OSHA has also updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan to prioritize the use of on-site workplace inspections where practical or a combination of on-site and remote methods.