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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

OSHA Steps in to Protect HCWs from COVID-19

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to ensure that employees in high-hazard industries like healthcare are protected from contracting SARS-CoV-2.

This emphasis program augments OSHA’s efforts to respond to COVID-19-related “complaints, referrals, and severe incident reports, by adding a component to target specific high-hazard industries or activities where this hazard is prevalent.”1 OSHA is also providing whistleblower protections to ensure workers that report unsafe conditions are protected from retaliation.

“Particular attention for on-site inspections will be given to workplaces with a higher potential for COVID-19 exposures, such as hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes and other healthcare and emergency response providers treating patients with COVID-19, as well as workplaces with high numbers of COVID-19-related complaints or known COVID-19 cases,” OSHA states. “These include, but may not be limited to, correctional facilities and workplaces in critical industries located in communities with increasing rates of COVID-19 transmission, and where workers are in close proximity.”

According to the general inspection procedures outlined in the document, OSHA visits may be programmed or unprogrammed, meaning inspectors could show up unannounced particularly in response to a complaint or fatality.

“The [OSHA inspector] shall review the establishment’s injury and illness logs (OSHA 300 and OSHA 300A) for calendar years 2020 and 2021 to date to identify work-related cases of COVID-19,” the NEP document states. “[We] may choose to verify the employer’s assertions regarding workplace conditions or possible existence of worker exposures to SARS-CoV-2 by interviewing employee(s) at the site.”