The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is extending its Revised National Emphasis Program for COVID-19 until further notice. The program focuses enforcement efforts on companies that put workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. It also ensures employers don't retaliate against workers who complain about unsafe or unhealthy conditions or exercise other rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
OSHA is also temporarily increasing the coronavirus inspection goal from 5 percent of inspections to 10 percent, while it works to finalize a permanent coronavirus health care standard. The program was set to expire July 7.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported increasing coronavirus hospitalization rates nationwide since mid-April, and data forecasts that hospitalizations may increase significantly in the coming weeks. OSHA says this increase in hospitalizations reinforces the need to continue prioritizing inspections at workplaces with a higher potential for coronavirus exposures, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other health care and emergency response providers treating patients with coronavirus.
First launched in 2021, the National Emphasis Program will continue to cover nonhealthcare industries, such as meat and poultry processing.
From 2021 to 2022, inspections under the revised program accounted for 7 percent of all federal OSHA inspections, exceeding the national emphasis program’s 5 percent goal. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, OSHA has issued 1,200 coronavirus-related citations to employers and assessed penalties totaling $7.2 million dollars. OSHA has also obtained relief for more than 400 employees who filed coronavirus retaliation claims against employers, exceeding $5 million in monetary awards to employees.
OSHA encourages state plans to continue implementing an emphasis program for coronavirus inspections that are at least as effective as federal OSHA’s Revised National Emphasis Program. Additionally, OSHA continues to work expeditiously toward a permanent standard to protect healthcare workers from coronavirus hazards and an infectious disease standard to ensure that workers are better prepared for any future outbreak.