A recent move by the federal workplace safety watchdog agency means that you should prepare for more COVID-19-related OSHA inspections this spring and summer. On March 12, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on COVID-19, effective immediately, which signals the agency will devote more resources towards virus-related inspections during the next several months. With the adoption of the NEP, OSHA likewise updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19, detailing the specific steps OSHA inspectors and other agency personnel will take during inspections under the NEP. Given the increased resources OSHA will use under the NEP to enforce existing safety standards and the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general requirement to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards (also known as the general duty clause), you should follow a five-step plan now to prepare for a visit from OSHA.
What Is A National Emphasis Program?
OSHA can adopt emphasis programs at the local, regional, or national level to initiate an enforcement directive geared towards conducting more inspections, issuing more citations, and consulting with employers about high hazard conditions, usually in a given industry. Specifically, OSHA defines emphasis programs as “temporary programs that focus OSHA’s resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries. Existing and potential new emphasis programs are evaluated using inspection data, injury and illness data . . . peer-reviewed literature, analysis of inspection findings, and other available information sources.” The current list of emphasis programs can be found here. Like the other ongoing emphasis programs, OSHA’s COVID-19 NEP calls for additional inspections concerning a variety of hazards and standards related to COVID-19, as noted below.
Key Takeaways From OSHA’s NEP And Updated COVID-19 Guidance
There are five key elements to OSHA’s recent action.
What Will An OSHA Inspection Under The NEP Look Like?
Most OSHA inspections generally include an opening conference, document review and witness interviews, facility walkaround, and closing conference. The NEP provides specific parameters and guidance for each of these steps during inspection under the program, which are outlined below.
How to Prepare For A COVID-19 NEP Inspection In Your Workplace
There are five steps you can take to prepare for a potential COVID-19 inspection.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and OSHA is making a push to conduct additional inspections concerning the coronavirus in the next several months. Take steps now to improve worker safety as you continue to bring more employees back to the workplace in the coming months. This will not only create a safer workplace, but also prepare you for an OSHA inspection under the safety agency’s new COVID-19 emphasis program. This is a constantly evolving area, and we will keep up updated as additional information becomes available.