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What Employers Should Know About OSHA’s new National Emphasis Program in Regard to COVID-19

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) that aims to protect employees that are at “high-risk” for contracting COVID-19. The announcement was made on March 12, 2021 and addresses employers who retaliate against employees who have safety concerns about their current working conditions during the pandemic. The program is temporary and will focus funds from OSHA on specific hazardous industries.

OSHA will ramp up inspections of eligible worksites where workers are deemed “high-risk” and conduct follow-up inspections on worksites that were visited in 2020. Compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) will be checking for things like the availability of protective equipment, infection control procedures and sanitation measures.

The goal is to significantly reduce or eliminate exposure to COVID-19 by targeting industries in which employees have a high frequency of close contact and therefore put the effort to control the health hazards associated with those exposures. In addition to targeted inspection, OSHA will be offering outreach to employers and compliance assistance to those that need it. This NEP went into effect on March 18th, 2021 and will remain in effect until further notice.

High-risk workplaces include but are not limited to:

  • Schools
  • Emergency response
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living
  • Laboratories
  • Morgues
  • Manufacturing
  • Food processing centers and plants
  • High-volume retail

Similarly, certain employers are required to maintain records of COVID-19 in the workplaces if the employee is infected with the virus as a result of performing duties at work and if the following criteria set by OSHA is met:

Even if a workplace does not follow under one of the high-risk industries detailed above, employers should be prepared for a possible rise in inspections for all OSHA-covered organizations. It is also advised to note that employers must provide their workers with a safe workplace and must follow all OSHA standards by law.

Until the pandemic is over, employers should expect the ever-changing legislation to continue. It is important that to keep up to date with not only OSHA standards but any other local or federal department and consult with your trusted advisors before taking action in any situation.

Is there anything Payroll Systems can help you with as you accommodate rapid legislation changes? Reach out and talk to us about the easy-to-scale solutions you need for your business.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.