In July, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a National Emphasis Program (NEP) focusing on warehouse and distribution facilities. A NEP is an enforcement initiative put into place when OSHA believes that a certain industry involves work that presents an elevated risk of injury or death to employees. OSHA based the new NEP on its conclusion that warehouse and distribution facilities experience a high rate of employee injuries compared to other industries.
The NEP means that OSHA and states with their own enforcement programs will identify subject employers for unannounced inspections, even when there has been no employee complaint or injury report. OSHA says that the inspections will focus on common hazards at such facilities, including powered industrial vehicle (forklift) operations, material handling and storage, walking-working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection. OSHA also stated that it will review those employers’ management of heat exposure and ergonomic risks, even though there are no specific OSHA safety standards that currently regulate those hazards.
In addition to these identified hazards, the NEP inspections will apply to all applicable safety requirements. Businesses with warehouse and distribution operations should review their safety compliance programs to make sure they are prepared in the event of an inspection. State OSHA programs have until late September to amend their enforcement plans to comply with the new enforcement initiative. The NEP expires in July 2026.