Throughout the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has faced criticism that it was not doing enough to protect America’s workers from COVID-19 hazards. Then, on Feb. 25, the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, the watchdog for the U.S. Department of Labor, issued a report, observing that “there is an increased risk that OSHA is not providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites.” OSHA is focused on changing that perception in the coming months.

Specifically, on March 12, OSHA began its National Emphasis Program (NEP) – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which seeks to “ensure that employees in high-hazard industries or work tasks are protected from the hazard of contracting” COVID-19 at work. It further issued an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in connection with the NEP, which provides “new instructions and guidance to Area Offices and Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports.” Employers in the targeted industries need to plan and be ready for what is likely to be an intense enforcement effort related to COVID-19 hazards in the workplace.

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