EMS agencies should be aware of the launch of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) National Emphasis Program (NEP). The new program modifies OSHA's Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The new NEP targets industries where OSHA data shows the highest amount of workers expected to perform tasks associated with exposure to SARS-CoV-2. In appendices A and B of the NEP PDF, primary and secondary target industries that meet this criteria are listed. Not surprisingly, “ambulance services” are a primary target industry.
What this means for EMS agencies
OSHA will focus on whether your safety and risk programs, particularly your Respiratory Protection Programs, are compliant with OSHA's Respiratory Protection Regulations (CFR 1910.134).
For many EMS agencies, a Respiratory Protection Program is part of well-established bloodborne and airborne protection policies. You should review existing programs against OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard to ensure current practices are compliant.
OSHA NEP inspections will enhance OSHA's previous coronavirus enforcement efforts and will include some follow-up inspections of worksites inspected in 2020.
The program's focused strategy ensures abatement and includes monitoring the effectiveness of OSHA's enforcement and guidance efforts. The program will remain in effect for up to 1 year from its issuance date, though OSHA has the flexibility to amend or cancel the program as the pandemic subsides.
Guidance for respiratory protection compliance
For agencies that need additional guidance on compliance with OSHA's Respiratory Protection Regulations, OSHA provides a Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respiratory Protection Standard PDF. This guide is intended to assist program administrators, employers who need to develop a program, employees required to wear respirators and licensed medical professionals who must evaluate an employee's ability to wear respirators, among others.
This 124-page guide is divided into the same sections that appear in OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard. Citations to the standard provided in each section enable you to compare the text in the guide with the OSHA standard. It also contains sample templates and checklists that can be utilized by employers to assist with compliance.
For more additional information and guidance, see OSHA's COVID-19 webpage. OSHA also provides answers to some frequently asked questions for employers in various industries about how to protect workers from COVID-19 and remain in compliance.
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