OSHA Launches Program to Protect High-Risk Workers from Coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On March 12, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – an agency of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) dedicated to keeping the American workforce safe and healthy – launched a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to an OSHA news release.

“This deadly pandemic has taken a staggering toll on U.S. workers and their families,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick announced. “This program seeks to substantially reduce or eliminate coronavirus exposure for workers in companies where risks are high, and to protect workers who raise concerns that their employer is failing to protect them from the risks of exposure.”

NEP inspections will enhance OSHA’s coronavirus enforcement efforts and will include follow-up inspections of worksites inspected in 2020. The focused strategy ensures abatement and includes monitoring the effectiveness of OSHA’s enforcement and guidance efforts. The program will remain in effect for up to one year from its issuance date but OSHA has the flexibility to amend or cancel the program as the pandemic subsides.

In a related action, OSHA has also updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan (IERP) to prioritize the use of on-site workplace inspections where practical, or a combination of on-site and remote methods. OSHA will only use remote-only inspections if the agency determines that on-site inspections cannot be performed safely. On March 18, 2021, this new guidance took effect and will remain in effect until further notice.

In January 2021, OSHA issued guidance on mitigating and preventing COVID-19 in the workplace to help employers and workers in most workplace settings outside of healthcare identify the risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work and assist them in determining appropriate control measures to implement. The guidance from OSHA on COVID-19 is available at www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework.

With the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, Congress created the OSHA to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. To learn more about OSHA, visit www.osha.gov.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a potentially deadly respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. As of March 29, 2021, there are approximately 127 million global cases and 2.7 million global deaths, while the United States leads the world with approximately 30 million cases and 549,000 deaths, according to research from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks that was ranked the number one background screening firm by HRO Today in 2020 – used best practices during the Coronavirus crisis, has released a white paper about background checks in the age of Coronavirus, and has posted blogs about how COVID-19 affects employers and workers. For more information about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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