OSHA Launches Program to Protect High-Risk Workers from COVID-19
Did you know that OSHA is specifically targeting restaurants, supermarkets and other businesses for COVID-related inspections? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to significantly reduce the number of workplace exposures to COVID-19. To accomplish this goal, OSHA will be focusing enforcement efforts on employers that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.
Regional offices will conduct planned inspections to find COVID-related hazards in the workplace, but they aren’t being done randomly. OSHA is specifically targeting industries with the most workers expected to perform tasks associated with COVID-19 exposure and infection. OSHA is using North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to generate a list of primary and secondary targets.
Primary targets include healthcare industries with the most COVID-related OSHA enforcement activities over the past year. It also includes NAICS codes for various non-healthcare industries, including:
- 445110 Supermarkets and Other Grocery (except Convenience) Stores
- 452112 Discount Department Stores
- 493110 General Warehousing and Storage
- 722511 Full-Service Restaurants
- 722513 Limited-Service Restaurants
The list of secondary targets is made up of NAICS codes for non-healthcare essential workers who are likely to have the highest frequency of close contact with the public or coworkers. It includes industry codes used in the construction, food and agriculture, manufacturing and transportation sectors. The NEP also requires OSHA to focus enforcement efforts on employers that engage in retaliation against employees who complain about unsafe conditions or exercise other rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Employers must provide a work environment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm, like COVID-19. Since the NEP specifically includes establishments with fewer than 10 workers, all businesses with NAICS codes appearing on OSHA’s list of primary and secondary targets may be hearing from OSHA soon.
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