OSHA Launches National Emphasis Program for COVID-19

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On March 12, 2021, OSHA announced a National Emphasis Program (NEP) titled National Emphasis Program – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The purpose, as OSHA’s NEP explains, is “to ensure that employees in high hazard industries or work tasks are protected from the hazard of contracting SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), the cause of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). ”

We’ll provide more details for you about this new OSHA/COVID National Emphasis Program below. Remember this comes pretty soon after the January 29, 2021 COVID guidance from OSHA.

Also keep min mind that we’ve created a 16-element COVID/Return to Work checklist for you based on the OSHA guidance and that our parent company Vector Solutions is offering complementary online COVID safety and health training courses for you to use.

As we do every time we write about an OSHA publication, we’ll begin by encouraging you to read the OSHA COVID National Emphasis Program for yourself.

The Origins of this New OSHA COVID National Emphasis Program

Back on January 21, 2021, President Biden directed the Secretary of Labor and OSHA “to launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on hazardous conditions that put the largest number of workers at serious risk, and on employers that engage in retaliation against employees who complain about unsafe or unhealthful conditions or exercise other rights under the Act.”

This National Emphasis is OSHA’s follow-through on that executive order by President Biden.

Target of OSHA’s COVID NEP

OSHA explains that it’s their plan to target “establishments that have workers with increased potential exposure to this hazard [COVID–ed.] and that puts the largest number of workers at serious risk.” Additionally, OSHA’s NEP explains their goal is to target “industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close contact exposures.”

NEP Outlines a Three-Pronged Approach to COVID Reduction

The NEP spells out a three-pronged approach from OSHA that includes:

  • Inspection targeting
  • Outreach to employers
  • Compliance assistance


Industries Targeted for Inspections as a Result of this New OSHA COVID National Emphasis Program

OSHA explains that they believe most of these targeted inspections will take place in general industry and, in particular, in health care.

In particular, Appendices A and B list industries that will get special attention from OSHA (the numbers below are NAICS codes). As OSHA did, we’ll give you the list within the health care industry first:

Targeted Industries within Health Care:

  • 621111-Offices of Physicians (except Mental Health Specialists)
  • 621210-Offices of Dentists
  • 621610-Home Health Care Services
  • 621910-Ambulance Services
  • 622110-General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  • 622210-Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals
  • 622310-Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals
  • 623110-Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)
  • 623210-Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability Facilities
  • 623311-Continuing Care Retirement Communities
  • 623312-Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly

Targeted non-Healthcare Industries:

  • 311612-Meat Processed from Carcasses
  • 311611-Animal (except Poultry) Slaughtering
  • 311615-Poultry Processing
  • 445110-Supermarkets and Other Grocery (except Convenience) Stores
  • 452112-Discount Department Stores
  • 493110-General Warehousing and Storage
  • 561320-Temporary Help Services
  • 722511-Full-Service Restaurants
  • 722513-Limited-Service Restaurants
  • 922140-Correctional Institutions
  • 11xxxx-Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
  • 236XXX-Construction of Buildings
  • 237XXX-Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction
  • 238XXX-Specialty Trade Contractors
  • 311xxx-Food Manufacturing
  • 3121xx-Beverage Manufacturing
  • 321xxx-Wood Product Manufacturing
  • 322xxx-Paper Manufacturing
  • 32412x-Asphalt Paving, Roofing, and Saturated Materials Manufacturing
  • 32419x-Other Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
  • 325xxx-Chemical Manufacturing
  • 326xxx-Plastics and Rubber Product Manufacturing
  • 327xxx-Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
  • 331xxx-Primary Metal Manufacturing
  • 332xxx-Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
  • 333xxx-Industrial Machinery Manufacturing
  • 334xxx-Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing
  • 335xxx-Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Component Manufacturing
  • 336xxx-Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
  • 33711x-Wood Kitchen Cabinet and Countertop Manufacturing
  • 3399xx-Other Miscellaneous Manufacturing
  • 44422x-Nursery, Garden Center, and Farm Supply Stores
  • 445xxx-Additional Food and Beverage Stores
  • 4523xx-General Merchandise Stores, including Warehouse Clubs and Supercenters
  • 4851xx-Urban Transit Systems
  • 4852xx-Interurban and Rural Bus Transportation
  • 4854xx-School and Employee Bus Transportation
  • 485991-Special Needs Transportation
  • 491xxx-Postal Service
  • 54142x-Industrial Design Services
  • 811219-Other Electronic and Precision Equipment Repair and Maintenance
  • 81131x-Commercial and Industrial Machinery and Equipment (except Automotive and Electronic  Repair and Maintenance

Retaliation Protection and Whistleblower Protection Program

Another primary focus of the new OSHA COVID National Emphasis Program is to “ensure that workers are protected from retaliation.” OSHA says they’re doing this by preventing retaliation when it’s possible, by distributing anti-retaliation information during their own inspections, through outreach efforts, and also by “promptly referring allegations to the Whistleblower Protection Program.”

When Does This National Emphasis Program Expire?

The NEP is set to expire no more than 12 months from its effective date.

We hope you found this update on OSHA, COVID, and OSHA’s new National Emphasis Program helpful. Before you close this window, be sure to download the Return to Work checklist below. 

COVID-Return to Work Checklist

Download this checklist, based on OSHA’s January 29. 2021 “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” to help keep the workers at your organization safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Download Checklist

COVID Return to Work Checklist Button

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