To account for the latest information on COVID-19, vaccination guidance, and PPE availability, OSHA has revised its NEP on coronavirus-related safety inspections. The NEP now provides more details into inspections at healthcare versus non-healthcare facilities.
Inspections at non-healthcare facilties will follow the revised Interim Enforcement Response Plan (IERP). Updates in the July 2021 IERP include:
- Enforcing protections for workers in non-healthcare industries who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated;
- Where respirator supplies and services are readily available, OSHA will stop exercising enforcement discretion for temporary noncompliance with the Respiratory Protection standard based on employers’ claims of supply shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- OSHA will no longer exercise enforcement discretion for the same requirements in other health standards, where full compliance may have been difficult for some non-healthcare employers due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Updated instructions and guidance for OSHA area offices and CSHOs for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports;
- Ensuring workers are protected from retaliation; and
- References to the revised NEP for COVID-19.
COVID-19 safety inspections at healthcare facilities
will follow a new Inspection Procedures for the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard
[DIR 2021-02 (CPL 02)].
Original Article Text (Posted March 15, 2021)
On March 12, OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect high-risk workers from hazards related to COVID-19 exposure. The program
expands upon its existing inspection efforts to prioritize companies with the highest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the virus.
This NEP goes immediately into effect, so employers need to start planning now for coronavirus-related site inspections.
Before the NEP’s publication, OSHA would conduct unprogrammed COVID-19–related inspections at worksites where employees have a high frequency of “close contact”
exposures, as defined by CDC. This may include hospitals, urgent care facilities, and other healthcare or general industry worksites that work directly with COVID-19–positive persons or substances.
These unprogrammed inspections will continue under the new NEP. The NEP adds programmed inspections for certain healthcare and general industry worksites in “Essential Critical Infrastructure.”
These are a few of the primary targeted facilities
for programmed inspections:
- Meat/poultry processing plants
- Animal slaughtering services (excluding poultry)
- General warehousing and storage sites
- Home healthcare services
- Assisted living facilities
OSHA will include other facilities as well based on their NAICS code. Secondary industries
added to the programmed inspections list include:
- Chemical manufacturing
- Heavy and civil engineering construction
- Metal manufacturing
- Agriculture and food/beverage manufacturing
OSHA is expected to begin inspection proceedings immediately with targeting to begin on March 26 at the earliest. This NEP does not affect the timing of unprogrammed inspections, which are expected to continue as usual.
Programmed inspections will follow a multi-step approach:
- Prior to inspection, a Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) will check the employer’s citation and fatality/ accident history.
- Once the inspection begins, the CSHO will determine whether any work practices may result in worker exposures to SARS-CoV-2.
- Then, the CSHO will interview the employer and employees and review the site’s injury and illness logs for 2020 and 2021 to identify any work-related cases of COVID-19.
If the CSHO finds no evidence of work assignments, recorded cases, or reports of positive or suspected COVID-19 exposures resulting in lost work time, hospitalizations, or fatalities, then the CSHO may conclude the inspection. Otherwise, the CSHO shall proceed with a walkaround and will cite any COVID-19–safety-related violations observed. Any other health hazards observed may be referred for follow-up inspections.
What Might OSHA Inspectors Cite?
In previous COVID-19–related inspections, CSHOs most frequently issued citations
for alleged violations of the following OSHA Standards:
- Respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134)
- Injury and illness reporting and recordkeeping (29 CFR 1904)
- Bloodborne pathogens (1910.1030(c)–(g))
- PPE general requirements (1910.132(d)(1))
COVID-19 Safety Awareness Online Training
Lion launched the COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness Online Course
to help US workplaces re-open safely. As facilities nationwide begin to do so, it is crucial that employees know how to protect themselves and their co-workers from exposure to COVID-19.
The course prepares employees to:
- Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors for COVID-19.
- Describe how the COVID-19 disease is transmitted.
- Follow recommended hygiene and work protocols to prevent exposure.
- Properly use and care for PPE and face coverings, when required.
Find more resources to help your facility protect employees from COVID-19 at Lion.com/COVID19