April 19, 2021

Volume XI, Number 109


April 16, 2021

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OSHA's COVID-19 National Emphasis Program to Focus on High-Risk Industries

On March 12, 2021, OSHA unveiled its new COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP). The stated purpose of the NEP is to "ensure that employees in high-hazard industries or work tasks are protected from the hazard" of contracting COVID-19. This means OSHA will be paying special attention to high-hazard industries, which include workplaces where employees have a high frequency of close contact exposures. High-hazard industries identified by the NEP include (but aren't limited to):

  • Physicians' and dentists' offices

  • Home health care services

  • Hospitals

  • Nursing care and assisted living facilities

  • Ambulance services

  • Grocery stores

  • Meat and poultry processing facilities

  • General warehousing and storage

  • Restaurants

  • Certain manufacturing industries (such as food and beverage, paper, chemical, plastics and rubber, equipment, and primary and fabricated metal manufacturers)

The central feature of the NEP is to increase programmed inspections of these high-hazard workplaces. Of course, OSHA will continue to perform unannounced inspections, giving the highest priority to workplaces with reported COVID-19 fatalities, and those for which OSHA has received complaints regarding worker exposure to COVID-19 hazards. Follow-up inspections may also be conducted for workplaces that OSHA has already inspected as a result of a COVID-19 fatality. Inspections may be conducted onsite or with remote methods.

The NEP also emphasizes whistleblower protections and OSHA's plans to focus on "ensuring that workers are protected from retaliation" for voicing concerns about COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. Employers, therefore, should be especially careful when taking adverse action against employees who have recently voiced complaints about health and/or safety in the workplace.

If your business is considered a "high-hazard" workplace under the NEP, be prepared for upcoming inspections. Now is a good time to review your current COVID-19 prevention policies, as well as your actual safety practices, and consider whether they ought to be updated or modified. If your business has not already developed and implemented a written COVID-19 prevention program, now is the time to act.

© 2021 Much Shelist, P.C.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 97



About this Author

Laura A. Elkayam Employment Lawyer Much Law Firm

Laura helps employers implement best practices to promote compliance with federal, state, and local labor and employment laws, while remaining mindful of each company’s unique business strategies and objectives.

Laura advises employers on matters pertaining to nearly every aspect of the employment relationship, including hiring, termination, leaves of absence, and wage and hour issues. She counsels clients on compliance with a variety of employment laws, including Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA...

Sheryl Jaffee Halpern, Much Shelist Law firm, Labor Employment Attorney

Sheryl Jaffee Halpern, chair of the firm's Labor & Employment group, helps employers make important decisions about their employees in a way that is designed to minimize risk. counsels clients on a wide range of employment matters, providing clear, direct guidance designed to promote compliance with the law, while remaining cognizant of the practical workplace realities her clients face. She counsels employers on a wide range of employment matters, providing clear and direct guidance that promotes legal compliance, while remaining cognizant of the practical...