Our colleague Robert O’Hara of Epstein Becker Green has a new post on the Workforce Bulletin blog that will be of interest to our readers: “OSHA Launches New COVID-19 Initiatives: With More to Come“.
The following is an excerpt:
President Biden’s January 21, 2021 Executive Order (EO) on COVID-19 tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to: launch a national enforcement program, review and correct any shortcomings in their prior enforcement strategies and to determine whether any Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) were necessary and, if so, to issue an ETS by March 15, 2021. The prior Administration had not issued an ETS, and was severely criticized by the Congress and labor unions.
On March 12, 2021, OSHA fulfilled some of the EO directives by publishing two COVID-19 initiatives to bolster safety enforcement during the remaining period of the pandemic, but it did not issue an ETS as expected. While the original deadline has now passed, OSHA reportedly is preparing to issue the ETS within the next few weeks and is currently working with the White House on regulatory review.
The first announced initiative is a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) Directive, whose goal is to significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to COVID-19. The NEP will focus OSHA resources on target industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close contact exposures. The NEP combines inspection-targeting, employer outreach and provides compliance assistance to promote safe workplaces.