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OSHA Launches Program to Protect Essential Workers, Resumes On-Site Inspections

OSHAThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) launched a national emphasis program (NEP) this week to protect high-risk workers from COVID-19 hazards.

This temporary program focuses OSHA resources on workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. By doing so, OSHA hopes to reduce or eliminate worker exposure through inspections at worksites where employees have high close contacts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. An infected person can spread the virus two days before they show symptoms. Asymptomatic patients can spread the virus two days before the positive specimen collection date.

The NEP will use the NAICS code system to select sites for inspections. The oil and gas industry is not on the target industries list Appendix A. However, oil and gas Appendix B includes NAICS codes for non-healthcare essential workers who have high frequency close contacts to the public or coworkers. Oil and gas employees could fall into some of these categories and industry codes.

Additionally, OSHA updated its Interim Enforcement Response Plan to prioritize onsite workplace inspections. This order replaces the May 2020 memorandum, and the agency will now perform onsite workplace inspections where practical. The strategy includes options for video conferencing and remote inspections if they cannot be done safely in person.

For more information on government programs and Council advocacy, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley.

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