How to Prepare for OHSA's COVID-19 National Emphasis Program

Jun 16, 2021 2:30 PM ET
Blog

In March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released their National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on COVID compliance.

OSHA’s COVID Focus and How to Be Prepared!

The goal of OSHA’s new COVID-19 NEP is “to significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to SARS-CoV-2 by targeting industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close contact exposures and therefore, controlling the health hazards associated with such exposures.”

OSHA will concentrate inspections on the following industries identified on OSHA’s targeting lists:

  1. High-risk healthcare establishments
  2. High-risk non-healthcare establishments
  3. Supplemental industries for non-healthcare in essential critical infrastructure

During the past few months, we have heard from numerous Antea Group clients that OSHA has returned to completing site visits in-person and these visits are focused on NEPs. With the focus of OSHA site visits shifting to NEPs, we want to help you understand what NEPs are and how you can be prepared.

What are OSHA’s Federal NEPs?

OSHA identifies hazards and high-hazard industries based on inspection data, injury and illness data, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports, peer-reviewed literature, and analysis of inspection findings. These NEPs are applied to industries with SIC/NAICS codes that traditionally are exposed to the hazards. Currently, there are ten federal NEPs, as follows:

  • Combustible Dust
  • Hazardous Machinery
  • Hexavalent Chromium
  • Lead
  • Primary Metal Industries
  • Process Safety Management
  • Shipbreaking
  • Silica, Crystalline
  • Trenching and Excavation
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In addition to the federal NEPs, there are regional Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs). For example, Region 1 (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, and VT) has the following LEPs:

  • Noise
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Cranes in Construction
  • Fall Hazards
  • Residential Construction

A full list of LEPs can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/lep

State plans may also adopt the NEPs and LEPs. A review of their adoption would need to be conducted through the individual state’s department of labor. It is recommended that you research the NEPs and LEPs adopted by your state to ensure that these programs have been fully reviewed and that your business is ready for assessment.

Could My Facility be Selected for an OSHA Inspection?

Generally, each OSHA office will take the industries in their area that apply to each emphasis program and use a random number generator to populate their inspection list for the year. Each emphasis program has a different number of required inspections for the year and can be found within the enforcement document. If the office gets through the first round of inspections, they may then select another batch of industries for inspection using the random number generator. Each enforcement program has a list of the SIC/NAICS codes they cover in their appendix section.

It is important for industries to know that if they fall under an NEP or LEP, because it is another trigger for an OSHA inspection. The emphasis programs do not frequently change from year to year so once a company initially determines if they fall under any applicable NEPs or LEPs, they can reasonably expect that those emphasis programs will continue in the following years. Another benefit of reviewing the emphasis programs is that a company can target their safety efforts to help reduce risk of injury in identified, high-hazard areas and processes.

For the new COVID-19 NEP, we recommend reviewing the program to determine where you are on the priority list. Also, review OSHA’s Interim Enforcement Response Plan which gives guidance to OSHA field staff on the focus for inspections related to COVID-19. Knowing what the OSHA field staff is reviewing will help you identify weaknesses in your program and ensure that you are providing a safe and compliant workplace.

But COVID-19 is Basically Over – RIGHT?!

While there is a positive trend in many locations, there are still many areas globally that are struggling with COVID-19. In the US, OSHA’s NEP for COVID is only one of the topics that OSHA can audit at a facility to determine compliance. While a company may find that they have a fully vaccinated population and are ready to resume “normal” operations, there are several COVID plans and procedures that should be addressed, including, but not limited to:

  • Impacts of modified workplaces
  • HVAC/indoor air quality
  • Exposure-response plans
  • Business travel policies
  • Defining customer and/or visitor contact protocols
  • OSHA record-keeping and reporting obligations
  • Identifying positions with potential for occupational exposure
  • Reviewing 29 CFR 1904 to determine work-related illness

How Can We Help?

Antea Group understands the challenges to return or reopen facilities and the need to digest lessons learned from the past year. You need to ensure that your business and suppliers are resilient for the next global emergency. Our team of experts in the US, and from around the globe can assist you with creating COVID-19 compliance business operations programs. Our consultants remain sensitive to your risk tolerance and resource constraints to ensure you have a proactive, effective plan and program that can withstand regulatory review.

Contact us for more information on OSHA’s NEP’s and how we can help you prepare for an inspection.

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About Antea Group: Antea Group is an international engineering and environmental consulting firm specializing in full-service solutions in the fields of environment, infrastructure, urban planning, and water. By combining strategic thinking and multidisciplinary perspectives with technical expertise and pragmatic action, we do more than effectively solve client challenges; we deliver sustainable results for a better future. We serve clients ranging from global energy companies and manufacturers to national governments and local municipalities. Learn more at https://us.anteagroup.com.