Department of Labor Announces National Emphasis Program Aimed at Reducing, Preventing Workplace Hazards
July 19, 2023
The National Emphasis Program to Prevent Workplace Hazards in Warehouses, Processing Facilities, Distribution Centers, and High-Risk Retail Establishments was launched today by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
More than 1.9 million people are working in the warehouse and distribution centers sector, which has grown significantly over the past ten years. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accident and illness rates in these businesses are higher generally than in the private sector and are more than twice as high in some industries.
“Our enforcement efforts are designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “This emphasis program allows OSHA to direct resources to establishments where evidence shows employers must be more intentional in addressing the root causes of worker injuries and align their business practices with the goal to ensure worker health and safety.”
OSHA will carry out extensive safety inspections as part of this three-year concentration program, with a particular emphasis on risks associated with operating powered industrial vehicles, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of evacuation, and fire protection. Inspections of retail businesses with high injury rates will also be part of the program, with an emphasis on the loading and storage areas. However, OSHA reserves the right to broaden the scope of an inspection if information suggests that there may be violations in other parts of the business.
Additionally, as part of the focus program, OSHA will evaluate the heat and ergonomic risks, and health inspections may be carried out if OSHA finds that these risks are present.
Businesses will be selected for inspection from two separate lists. One of them consists of businesses that are subject to the emphasis program’s industry codes. The second is made up of a small number of retail stores with the greatest rates of sickness and injuries leading to time off work, reduced duties, or job transfers.
State plans must embrace this emphasis program or create an alternative program that is at least as successful as the federal model.