The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched new initiatives for 2021 to prevent employees in high-risk jobs from contracting COVID-19.
Employees in High-Risk Industries
On March 12, 2021 OSHA prioritized two initiatives to reduce or eliminate any rising number of COVID cases occurring at work. These initiatives will be implemented through the newly created National Emphasis Program (NEP).
The first initiative focuses on protecting employees who work in high-hazard industries that readily expose them to the coronavirus, such as healthcare workers. The NEP will target industries which put the largest number of workers at serious risk to ensure that employers are taking all necessary precautions.
The NEP will issue science-based guidance to help workers avoid COVID-19 exposure. The NEP will
- provide information about the benefits of mask-wearing and social distancing;
- partner with State and local governments to better protect public employees;
- enforce worker health and safety requirements; and
- push for additional resources to help employers protect employees.
In addition, this NEP will emphasize protecting employees from retaliation. OSHA will accomplish this by preventing retaliation where possible, distributing anti-retaliation information during inspections, and outreach opportunities, as well as promptly referring allegations of retaliation to the Whistleblower Protection Program, as described in the OSHA Direction.
On-Site Workplace Inspections
The second initiative will step up enforcement efforts of OSHA regulations through more diligent investigations of worksites. OSHA updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan (IERP) regarding on-site workplace inspections and added remote inspections. Remote-only inspections will take place if on-site inspections cannot be performed safely.
The IERP applies CDC guidelines to ensure safety on the job, such as safe distancing, hygiene protocols, face coverings, and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). If employers do not implement protective measures to comply with current CDC guidelines, OSHA will determine whether employees are exposed to a recognized hazard and if there are reasonable means to remove the hazard. If employers do not remedy the COVID hazard, penalties could be issued.
What Do New OSHA Initiatives Mean to You?
Is your employer implementing safety procedures to protect employees from COVID-19? If not, you may consider contacting OSHA.
Gardner employment Law provides expert legal advice on how to deal with COVID issues at work. If your employer is not complying with CDC standards to protect you from COVID-19, give us a call.