On March 12, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released its new COVID-19 National Emphasis Program. This new program outlines policies and procedures directed at minimizing employee exposure to COVID-19. The new program establishes a new inspection/enforcement protocol by targeting “high-hazard” industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of exposure to close contact. State-level enforcement agencies like the Illinois Department of Labor are encouraged to adopt the program but are not required to do so. School districts as a whole are not included in the list of “high-hazard” industries, but school and employee bus transportation activities are on the secondary target list for inspections. Therefore, schools should continue to follow the safety measures outlined by OSHA, public health authorities, and ISBE regarding appropriate steps for maintaining safe school environments—including transportation activities—during COVID-19.
In addition, this program includes an added focus to ensure that workers are protected from retaliation. This is to be accomplished by preventing retaliation where possible, distributing anti-retaliation information during inspections, and outreach opportunities, as well as promptly referring allegations of retaliation to the Whistleblower Protection Program.
For questions about this program, contact Barb Erickson.