New Federal OSHA COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and Enforcement Response Plan Targets Industries and Activities for Inspection

On March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) designed to “significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to [COVID-19]” by targeting specific “high-hazard industries or work tasks” with greater frequency of close contact between workers for on-site inspections, outreach, and compliance assistance related to COVID-19 prevention and response measures. While federal OSHA’s NEP technically does not apply to state plans, OSHA is strongly encouraging them to do so; and state plans must submit within 60 days a notice of intent indicating whether they intend to adopt same or similar initiatives.

The NEP specifically targets certain industries based on public enforcement data, such as complaints, inspections and COVID-19-related violations, where the data reflects that workers are expected to perform tasks associated with exposure to COVID-19. The NEP lists numerous “primary” targets, which are divided up as either healthcare or non-healthcare employers.

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COVID-19 Vaccination Planning for Employers: Questions to Consider for Policy and Practice

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely accessible, and certain localities relax COVID-19 restrictions, employers hoping to ramp up on-site operations or reduce absenteeism face a new challenge: navigating employee vaccination. Employers are evaluating whether to mandate, strongly suggest or simply remain neutral regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and on-site work.

The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. Business justifications and accommodation issues, potential public relations and employee relations pitfalls, the impact of vaccination on workforce safety procedures, litigation risks on multiple fronts — these are just the beginning. To help piece together this business and regulatory puzzle, we have compiled a list of issues organizations should consider as they set policy and communication plans regarding on-site work and COVID-19 vaccines. We have also identified issues to consider with regard to the practical application of any such policy and the development of related communications to employees or others.

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What Does New Jersey’s Lifting of the Stay-At-Home Order Mean for Office-Based Workers? … Not Much.

On June 1, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that the state is on track and expected to enter Stage/Phase 2 of the Restart and Recovery Plan on June 15, 2020, which will permit nonessential retail businesses to reopen to the public and permit in-person outdoor dining, so long as required social distancing and other mitigation protocols are followed. Personal care service providers, such as hair salons, nail salons and barber shops are scheduled to reopen on June 22, 2020.

On June 9, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 153, lifting the stay-at-home order that had been in place since March 21, 2020. Executive Order No. 153 states, among other things, “Paragraph 2 of Executive Order No. 107 (2020), which requires New Jersey residents to remain home or at their place of residence with limited exceptions, is hereby rescinded.”

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Legal Considerations for Reopening the Workplace

On March 18, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted Executive Order 202.6, temporarily closing all nonessential businesses in response to the coronavirus outbreak. In late April, Governor Cuomo issued guidance announcing a phased approach to reopening businesses that requires regions across New York State to satisfy seven criteria involving a drop in the infection rate, increased capacity in healthcare systems, increased ability to administer diagnostic tests and isolate new cases, and a capacity to implement contact tracing. With eight out of the state’s ten regions satisfying Governor Cuomo’s criteria, municipalities and businesses around the state prepare to return to work.

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Question & Answer Employer Guide: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19

As government authorities look to implement business reopening measures, employers are now planning to move employees back into the workplace as state and local stay-at-home orders expire and other COVID-19 business restrictions expire or are modified. What are the various considerations employers must keep in mind when reopening their physical work locations?

This Question and Answer Guide describes a number of COVID-19 employment and return-to-work considerations. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation and highly dependent on jurisdiction- and sector-specific considerations, we anticipate that additional guidance will be coming from the federal, state and local governments as plans to allow businesses to open are developed in the coming days and weeks.

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Under New OSHA Rules, Employers May Not Conduct Post-Accident Drug Tests Simply as a Matter of Course

A mandatory drug and alcohol test after a workplace injury seems like a no brainer, right? Most companies believe so, which is why mandatory drug and alcohol testing after workplace injuries has become a common policy.  However, new Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”) regulations on electronic reporting of workplace injuries cast doubt on the continued legality of such policies.  Specifically, OSHA’s new position is that mandatory post-injury testing deters the reporting of workplace safety incidents by employees and therefore employers who continue to operate under such policies will face penalties and enforcement scrutiny. In light of OSHA’s enforcement position, it is time for your company to review and revise its mandatory post-accident drug and alcohol testing policy.

Effective August 10, 2016,[1] OSHA’s final rules on electronic reporting of workplace injuries require employers to implement “a reasonable procedure” for employees to report workplace injuries, and that procedure cannot deter or discourage employees from reporting a workplace injury. The final rule, which amends OSHA’s regulation on Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (29 CFR 1904), requires employers to electronically submit injury and illness data to OSHA that they are already required to keep under OSHA regulations. Even though the content of these submissions depends on the size and industry of the employer, all employers are now required to: 1) inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation; 2) clarify that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting; and 3) incorporate the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses.

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