How new OSHA National Emphasis Program mitigates effects of COVID-19 in the workplace

October 10, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a new initiative called the National Emphasis Program, which is aimed at reducing the effects of COVID-19 in the workplace.This new program expands on OSHA's general duty clause by providing additional requirements that are specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Emphasis Program (NEP) took effect March 12 and is geared toward businesses that have the largest number of workers with increased potential exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, the NEP incorporates provisions to ensure workers are protected against employer retaliation. Allegations of retaliation under the NEP will be referred to the Whistleblower Protection Program.Syndeo has detailed the important requirements of the NEP. Reporting – Employers must develop policies and procedures that enable employees to report COVID-19 symptoms. Isolating Sick Workers – Employers cannot allow employees, contractors or temporary workers to work on-site if they are known or suspected to have COVID-19. Notification Procedures – Employers must establish a process to notify affected employees when anyone in the workplace has tested positive for COVID-19 while maintaining the confidentiality of infected workers. Other notifications required by a state, county or municipality regarding two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in a 14-day period may apply. Access to Medical Records – The employer must allow employees access their own COVID-19 related exposure and medical records, if any. Return to Work – Employers must develop and implement a return-to-work policy for individuals with known or suspected COVID-19. Social Distancing – Employers must implement and enforce rules that require physical distancing on the job and while on paid, on-site breaks. This includes occupancy limits and disinfecting procedures for common areas and shared spaces, including restrooms. Compliance with Executive Orders – Employers must ensure compliance with mandatory requirements of any applicable state executive or public health emergency order. Sanitation Procedures – Employers must adopt adequate sanitation and disinfection procedures for all common and shared spaces, tools and vehicles. Employers also must provide access to soap, water and hand sanitizer during work hours. Mobile Crews – All mobile crews must be provided with hand sanitizer or have immediate access to a handwashing facility when feasible. Retaliation and Employee Protection – Employers cannot retaliate, discharge or in any way discriminate against employees who voluntarily provides and wears their own PPE if:

  • The equipment is not provided by the employer and the PPE does not create a greater or serious hazard to the employee or others.
  • Discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee who raises a reasonable concern about infection controls related to COVID-19. The protection applies regardless of whether the concern is raised to the employer, the employer’s agent, other employees, a government agency or to the public through print, online, social or any other media outlet.

About us: As the Heartland’s leading employer services company, Syndeo partners with local business owners to help them minimize risk, improve efficiency and maximize profitability allowing them the freedom to focus on growth and fulfilling their mission. Syndeo fulfills its mission by taking on all of the HR responsibilities for our clients’ workforce, including employee relations, benefits, risk management and payroll. Winner of the 2020 and 2021 Best of HR Services Award through ClearlyRated for providing superior client service. See our ClearlyRated profile here.

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