OSHA Broadens Ability to Inspect Certain Employers for COVID-19 Hazards with New National Emphasis Program

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) targeting employers in certain high hazard industries for COVID-19 related inspection. The NEP places these employers on a programmed inspection list based on their industry hazards as classified by their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. These employers include healthcare, dental, long-term and assisted living facilities, supermarkets, restaurants, meat and animal processing, discount department stores, warehousing, correctional institutions, and certain construction and manufacturing employers, among others. A complete list of specific employers by NAICS code can be found in Appendices A and B of the NEP here.

Employers on this NEP inspection list are randomly selected for inspection by OSHA. The NEP allows OSHA to inspect employers without advance notice and without regard to any employer-specific safety issues or complaints. Employers in these industries should be prepared for the possibility of a random unannounced inspection by creating an inspection plan. This plan should include preparing a COVID-19 pandemic response plan in accordance with OSHA’s updated guidance (found here), designating a main contact to interact with and accompany the OSHA compliance officer on the inspection, and training those involved (such as front desk and reception employees) as to what to do when OSHA arrives.

Employers should also ensure they are taking all employee complaints related to COVID-19 into account and fully investigating and responding appropriately. This includes ensuring there is no retaliation against complaining employees since this is also an additional emphasis of this NEP.

The NEP is in place for a year, although OSHA has the ability to amend or extend it. Employers Council can help; give us a call with questions.