In an effort to significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposure to COVID-19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) targeting those industries where employees might be at increased risk for close-contact exposures.
The plan provides new instructions and guidance to Area Offices and Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports.
Healthcare will be the first targeted industry and will include physician and dental offices, home health care services, general medical and surgical hospitals, nursing care facilities, and other continued care or assisted living facilities.
OSHA indicated that it began inspections on March 26. Inspections will be both on-site and virtual.
Under the Biden Administration, this program will include the added focus of ensuring that workers are protected from retaliation.
Workers fearing consequences for requesting inspections, complaining of COVID-19 exposure, or reporting illnesses, may be covered under one or more whistleblower statutes. If the worker is alleging retaliation, the Area Offices must submit a referral to the Regional Whistleblower Protection Program.
OSHA will forward complaint information deemed appropriate to other federal, state, and local authorities with concurrent interests, as applicable.
Although there has been a significant increase in the number of people being vaccinated, especially those in the healthcare field, OSHA has indicated that may not justify relaxing safety standards. Therefore, employers should continue to impose COVID-19 safety measures in the workplace until further guidance is made available.
Employers should continue to monitor OSHA’s website for further information. If you have any questions or concerns about the impact of this new program on your healthcare organization contact us by calling 305-358-4500 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s discuss how we might be able to assist you.