OSHA Revises National Emphasis Program for COVID-19 
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has revised its National Emphasis Program for COVID-19.

The National Emphasis Program went into effect in March 2021, focusing on companies that put the largest number of employees at risk for the coronavirus, as well as for employers that engaged in retaliation against whistleblowers.


What changed under the revised National Emphasis Program? 


The update revised target industries based on an evaluation of inspection and illness data, which includes healthcare and non-healthcare industries, such as meat and poultry processing. 

The revised National Emphasis Program also removed a list of Secondary Target Industries from the program appendix. When it comes to healthcare inspections, the program now refers compliance safety and health offices to the new directive Inspection Procedures for the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, issued on June 28.


Non-Healthcare Inspections 


Inspections for non-healthcare industries will follow new procedures outlined in the updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan, or IERP (this is different from the National Emphasis Program).

These new updates include: 

  • Enforcing protections for workers in non-healthcare industries who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated
  • Where respirator supplies and services are readily available, OSHA will stop exercising enforcement discretion for temporary noncompliance with the Respiratory Protection standard based on employers’ claims of supply shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • OSHA will no longer exercise enforcement discretion for the same requirements in other health standards, where full compliance may have been difficult for some non-healthcare employers due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Updated instructions and guidance for OSHA area offices and CSHOs for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports
  • Ensuring workers are protected from retaliation

The goals for inspectors in these workplaces are to identify COVID-19 exposures, ensure appropriate hazard control measures are implemented, and to make sure to identify and address any violations of the general duty clause and OSHA standards (other than the ETS). This updated plan is only meant to remain in effect until further notice during the current COVID-19 public health crisis. 

Health employers must already comply with most provisions and have until July 21, 2021, to comply with training, ventilation, and barrier provisions. 


Does the ETS apply to you? 


The ETS applies to health care and health support services, which includes hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. There are some exceptions, such as “non-hospital ambulatory care settings” where non-employees are screened for COVID-19 before entering.

Check out OSHA’s published flowchart (link below) to see if your workplace is covered by the ETS.

OSHA National Emphasis Program - Flow Chart

Chart Citation: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4125.pdf










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