What is an NEP?

A National Emphasis Program (NEP) is a temporary specific hazard awareness program in which OSHA focuses their resources on.

These hazards can be seen in the general industry or can be in targeted industries. For example, in 2021 OSHA issued an NEP on Covid-19 which covered general industry, and then was revised to focus on the healthcare industry as they were at the most risk for exposure. The NEPs will provide directives for employers to follow that ensure workers are protected from the focused hazard. OSHA inspections will typically focus on industries with the highest exposures to the hazard that is identified in the NEP.

In addition to a National Emphasis Program, regional OSHA offices can develop Local Emphasis Programs (LEP) as well. For example, as of October 2023, Region II which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, implemented an LEP focused on construction work sites with a purpose “to identify and reduce or eliminate hazards at local construction projects.” This LEP outlines that programmed (OSHA planned) inspections will be determined through collecting local information regarding construction projects and will identify which establishments (addresses) they will inspect. OSHA will also continue their unprogrammed (unplanned) inspections after a trigger such as a fatality or catastrophe, complaints, or referrals.

When do these temporary plans expire?

It depends on the plan. Some can be in effect for one year, while others can be in effect for multiple years. The LEP on construction work sites is not due to expire until September 30, 2028.

What are the current NEPs and LEPs in place that could impact a construction site?

In addition to the LEP of construction work sites: 

  • NEP – Combustible Dust – started in January 2023 with no expiration date.
  • NEP – Falls – started in May 2023 with no expiration date.
  • NEP – Outdoor & Indoor Heat-Related Hazard – started in April 2022 with a planned expiration of April 2025.
  • NEP – Respirable Crystalline Silica – started in February 2020 with no expiration date.
  • LEP – Noise Hazards – started October 2019 with a planned expiration date of Sept 2024.

This names a few, but there can be more depending on the type of construction a business is doing. The OSHA.gov website lists out all the NEPs and LEPs and provides resources to comply with these emphasis programs.

What should a company do if an OSHA compliance officer arrives?

There are several actions that a company can take to ensure a smooth visit from OSHA whether it is programmed or unprogrammed. We recommend having a written plan on how to handle this type of encounter. The compliance officer is there for a reason and the company should do their best to be cooperative and professional. The officer will want to do the following:

  • Review records including a health and safety program, OSHA records and may request specific information. Only give the officer what they are requesting, nothing more. During a physical inspection, the officer should always be accompanied by a company representative and only shown what needs to be inspected. During this time, the company representative should document everything the officer does including what they are inspecting (take pictures of what they take pictures of), what they are saying, and any other actions. The company representative should be cooperative, and in charge of the inspection. OSHA is ultimately a visitor at your location, there to look at something specific.
  • When OSHA Interviews include employees, answers should be honest, to the point and only using knowledge-based answers (no guessing or making assumptions). The compliance officer is entitled to interview employees privately, however if the interviews are within the company representative’s presence, the conversation should be documented.  

At the end of the visit, there should be a closing conference in which the officer will provide a list of potential violations. Ensure you understand the list and the reasons why the officer is identifying those violations. Again, document everything and keep it all on file.

What happens if OSHA has found violations?

Ultimately, fines will be assigned to the company. As of 2024, OSHA has increased the maximum penalty costs to $16,131 per violation in serious, other-than-serious, and posting requirements violations categories. Failure to abate violations result in a fee of $16,131 per day beyond the abatement date. Willful or repeated violations are a fee of $161,323 for each violation. 

Also, as of January of 2023, OSHA has issued an expansion on their Instance-by-Instance (IBI) citations which essentially means if an employer has multiple violations, those citation fees will be individualized instead of being grouped together as they might have been in the past. This can lead to very hefty fees for a company.

What are the most common types of violations in construction?

OSHA does release an annual report of the top 10 most frequently cited standards. The last report published was for 2022 and includes construction specific standards of fall protection, ladders, scaffolding, fall protection training, and eye/face protection.  

Where can a construction company find resources to help them comply with OSHA standards?

The OSHA and Department of Labor websites offer resources, compliance assistance and training that can help a business position themselves for success. While it does feel like showing your cards, these services are there to help businesses keep their employees safe.

OneGroup is available to assist in a variety of ways. The Risk Management department answers compliance questions, research answers to issues, and can provide resources for specific hazards. All OneGroup clients have access into our Risk Management Center, a web-based portal of safety and risk management tools including trainings, templates, and toolbox talks.

Learn More

To learn more reach out to Megan Coville and Paula DeStefano at MCoville@OneGroup.com and PDeStefano@OneGroup.com.

This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Please refer to your policy contract for any specific information or questions on applicability of coverage.

Please note coverage can not be bound or a claim reported without written acknowledgment from a OneGroup Representative.

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