July 7, 2022

OSHA Extends National Emphasis Program for COVID-19

OSHA has extended its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19 until further notice, the agency announced last week. The program was set to expire today, July 7. Launched in March 2021, the NEP originally focused on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 and on employers that retaliated against workers who complained about unsafe or unhealthy work conditions or exercised other rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The program was revised in July 2021 to target industries with the most risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposures, such as meat and poultry processing. OSHA says the NEP will continue to cover both healthcare and non-healthcare industries.

OSHA’s extension of the NEP follows reports from CDC of increasing coronavirus hospitalization rates across the United States in recent months. Data forecasts for COVID-19 hospitalizations updated by CDC this week predict that the number of new daily confirmed hospitalizations for COVID-19 “will remain stable or have an uncertain trend, with 2,000 to 13,400 new confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions likely reported on July 29, 2022.”

“This increase in hospitalizations reinforces the need for OSHA to continue prioritizing inspections at workplaces with a higher potential for coronavirus exposures, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other healthcare and emergency response providers treating patients with coronavirus,” OSHA’s press release states.

OSHA is working on a standard on infectious diseases as well as a permanent standard intended to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19. According to the Department of Labor’s spring 2022 regulatory agenda, OSHA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking on infectious diseases in May 2023. The regulatory agenda indicates that OSHA anticipates issuing its final rule on COVID-19 hazards in healthcare sooner—in September of this year.