2022 OSHA Regulatory Agenda & Strategy – Emphasis Areas and Focus

Each year, OSHA releases guidance regarding its regulatory agenda and areas of focus. It is important to stay up-to-date with OSHA’s emphasis programs to ensure your facility maintains regulatory compliance. OSHA’s regulatory agenda and recently published Site-Specific Targeted Inspections guidance help provide insight into regulatory areas that this year’s inspections will focus on. This information is critical for evaluating the likelihood of an OSHA inspection at your facility. More importantly, it can help you prioritize onsite health & safety initiatives for 2022 and beyond.

OSHA Inspection Strategy

OSHA has a priority hierarchy for conducting onsite inspections. The following details the criteria in order of precedence:

  1. Imminent Danger Situations – Hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm receive top priority.
  2. Severe Injuries & Illnesses – Workplace fatalities must be reported within 8 hours and hospitalizations/amputations/losses of eye must be reported within 24 hours. Failure to properly report these incidents to OSHA will likely result in an inspection.
  3. Worker Complaints – Allegations of hazards or violations receive a high priority by OSHA.
  4. Referrals – Hazards identified by other federal agencies, state/local agencies, individuals, and the media can result in inspections.
  5. Targeted Inspections – Inspections aimed at high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses.
  6. Follow-up Inspections – Checks for abatement of violations cited during previous inspections are also conducted by OSHA in certain circumstances.

Site-Specific Targeted Inspections

OSHA has established a directive that aims for the site-specific targeting (SST) of non-construction businesses with 20 or more employees. OSHA will review injury and illness data from 2017-2019 and target businesses that experienced consistent injury illness rate increases over the three-year data period. The agency will review DART rates (Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred) for facilities and compare those values against the industry’s national average. Facilities with DART rates consistently above the national average can be targeted by OSHA. OSHA will also target sites that failed to electronically submit their 300A OSHA Log between 2017-2019 and will verify OSHA 300A information from sites with low DART rates.

National Emphasis Program

OSHA develops National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) to focus efforts on specific high-hazard industries. NEPs are evaluated by using available data from sources including NIOSH reports, injury & illness data, inspection data, and other available information sources. In 2022, OSHA’s NEP will focus on industries with higher rates of Covid-19 and industries where employees work in high-heat environments.

As Covid-19 cases decline, the revised NEP is being modified to target industries with increased potential exposure to Covid-19. The revised NEP will focus on follow-up inspections at sites where unvaccinated employees work in close contact with each other. Previous inspections through 2021 show a higher frequency of unprogrammed inspections in healthcare industries, as well as critical infrastructure including food processing, general warehousing and storage, supermarkets, and restaurants.

OSHA anticipates that the majority of the inspections covered under this NEP will continue to occur in general industry, particularly in healthcare, based on current OSHA enforcement data showing higher COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe incident reports at healthcare worksites.

In Q4 of 2021, OSHA established an enforcement initiative to help prevent and protect workers from heat-related illnesses and death. This NEP is an expansion of a current Regional Emphasis Program in Region 6 (AR, LA, MN, OH, WI). OSHA Area Directors across the nation will prioritize inspections at facilities with a high number of heat-related complaints, as well as industries where strenuous work is conducted in high-heat environments (>80 degrees F – both indoor and outdoor).

It is recommended that employers conduct a hazard analysis and implement strategies to minimize the potential of heat-related illnesses, including training, encouraging breaks, and providing cold water & beverages.

For more information on the National Emphasis Program, visit the pages below:

Local Emphasis Program

Similar to NEPs, Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) are developed by OSHA to target high-hazard industries within a particular region. LEPs are created and implemented at the regional level and are aimed to help bring awareness and reduce/eliminate specific hazards in high-hazard industries within a region. Each region has a set of LEPs published by OSHA.

For example, in Region 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) and Region 8 (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY), a Local Emphasis Program for 2022 focuses on industries with high noise hazards. The purpose of this Regional Emphasis Program is to encourage employers to take steps to identify, reduce, and eliminate hazards associated with exposure to high levels of noise.

In Region 10 (AK, ID, OR, WA), multiple new LEPs were issued/renewed for 2022. LEPs for this region will target grain handling industries, powered industrial trucks, crane use in construction, and general construction.

For more information on Local Emphasis Programs specific to your region and industry, view the directives here.

What’s Ahead for OSHA?

As the country moves out of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is expected that OSHA will resume normal operations and continue to increase its onsite presence and inspections. It is especially important for sites with high rates of injuries, as well as industries targeted by NEPs and LEPs, to ensure they are doing their due diligence when it comes to evaluating and establishing a safe workplace. Through understanding LEPs and NEPs and their applicability to your site, you can help keep your employees safe while reducing the probability of a costly fine from an OSHA inspection finding.

Stay up to date with current OSHA guidance to help maintain regulatory compliance at your facility by visiting our website or by contacting us.


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