OSHA revises National Emphasis Program for COVID-19 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week revised its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19, removing “Food Manufacturing” from its list of targeted industries. 

OSHA published an updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan (IERP), which continues to include some animal sectors as primary high hazard industries. However, it removes Food manufacturing, which included grain and feed milling and processing industries, from the secondary target industries list. 
The primary high hazard industries in the revised plan, which are mostly related to health care, still include: meat processed from carcasses; animal slaughtering; and poultry processing. 

OSHA launched the original NEP in March 2021 to focus on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus, and on employers that engage in retaliation against employees who complain about unsafe or unhealthful conditions or exercise other rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Based on an evaluation of inspection and illness data, the revised plan adjusts the targeted industries to those most at risk for COVID-19 exposure, including healthcare and some non-healthcare industries such as meat and poultry processing.

Inspections in non-healthcare establishments will follow procedures outlined in the updated IERP published July 7, 2021. 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; and
References to the revised NEP for COVID-19.

The updated IERP will remain in effect until further notice and is intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 public health crisis, OSHA noted.