As we previously reported, on January 21, 2021, President Biden issued the Executive Order Protecting Worker Health and Safety. Under the order OSHA was tasked with, among other things, (i) considering whether emergency temporary workplace standards are necessary and, if deemed necessary, to issue new standards by March 15; and (ii) launching a national enforcement effort focused on COVID-19-related violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles.
Well, March 15 has passed, and no emergency temporary workplace standards have been issued. Accordingly, at least for the time being, OSHA will continue to rely on the current standards to protect employees, including conducting hazard assessments, ensuring sanitation and cleanliness, and providing PPE, as well as observing the general duty clause.
OSHA did, however, launch a National Emphasis Program (NEP), focusing enforcement efforts on what OSHA describes as “companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus.” OSHA also updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan (IERP) in a related action to launching the NEP. The IERP provides new instructions and guidance to Area Offices and Compliance Safety and Health Officers for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports, consistent with the goal set out in the NEP.
Below are the highlights of both the NEP and IERP:
There have been reports over the past few days that OSHA has drafted emergency temporary workplace standards for COVID, but whether and/or when such standards would be released has not been confirmed. We will provide an update if any emergency standards are released — stay tuned.