Update On OSHA’s COVID-19 Enforcement Focus

The release of the expected Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation addressing COVID-19 safe work practices has been slightly delayed.  It was anticipated to be issued by March 15 and it now appears that the timetable for release has been pushed to late March/early April 2021.  Independent of the regulation, OSHA has launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on COVID-19 enforcement.  OSHA’s stated goal for this NEP is to significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to the COVID-19 virus by targeting industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close contact exposures.  In addition, the NEP includes an added focus to ensure that workers are protected from retaliation.  The NEP was immediately put into effect and will remain so until March 12, 2022. 

While the printing industry has not been identified as a targeted industry sector under this NEP, there are elements contained in the NEP that need to be understood.  According to the NEP, if your facility is on OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting (SST) list, then you will incur a combined inspection -both the COVID-19 inspection and the wall-to-wall inspection covered by the SST Program. The SST program primarily focuses on businesses that have high injury and illness rates.

Also note that there is no “small business” exception – establishments with fewer than 10 workers are still subject to inspection under this NEP.  Similar to other NEPs, Fed OSHA is strongly encouraging all of the State OSH Plans to adopt the COVID-19 NEP or a similar enforcement emphasis program.  OSHA also announced an update to its Interim Enforcement Response Plan that details how OSHA staff should be conducting COVID-19 related inspections.  While the update did not change any guidance surrounding earlier released guidelines on COVID-19 recordkeeping, the plan did provide additional details regarding inspection protocols as well as violations for OSHA field staff to identify.  The biggest change is that it directs OSHA Area Offices to prioritize the use of on-site workplace inspections, rather than the use of remote inspections.  OSHA states that it will use remote-only inspections only if the agency determines that on-site inspections cannot be performed safely. 

For more information on OSHA’s activities on the regulation of COVID-19 in the workplace, please reach out to Marci Kinter, mkinter@printing.org, or Gary Jones, gjones@printing.org.



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