OSHA has launched a national program to protect high-risk workers from coronavirus, as well as focusing on employers that retaliate against workers with safety concerns.
The national emphasis program (NEP) concentrates enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The program also prioritises employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.
“This deadly pandemic has taken a staggering toll on U.S. workers and their families. We have a moral obligation to do what we can to protect workers, especially for the many who have no other protection,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.
“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 the agency’s previous coronavirus enforcement efforts, and will include some follow-up inspections of worksites inspected in 2020.
“With more people being vaccinated and the number of infections trending down, we know there is light at the end of the tunnel. But until we are past this pandemic workers deserve a Labor Department that is looking out for their health,” said Frederick.
OSHA also intends to use more on-site inspections where practical, or a combination of on-site and remote methods. OSHA said it would now only use remote-only inspections if the agency determines that on-site inspections cannot be performed safely.
Last month, OSHA issued significantly stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus prevention program and better identify risks that could lead to exposure and contraction (see related article).
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