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December 16, 2011

OSHA Announces Two New National Emphasis Programs

Chlorine Gas safety signChemical facilities and nursing home / residential care facilities will be the focus of additional OSHA inspection efforts under two new National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) recently announced.

The new chemical NEP aims to reduce releases of highly hazardous chemicals. It replaces a 2009 regional pilot program and establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces covered by OSHA's process safety management (PSM) standard. The inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers' written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. Under the NEP, OSHA will conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

Biohazard safety signThe health care NEP, still in the planning stages, is in response to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing an increase in the rate of nonfatal occupational injuries among health care support workers.

In a November announcement, OSHA head David Michaels noted the new health care emphasis program will involve increased inspections with a special focus on back injuries from resident handling or lifting. The program will also target exposure to bloodborne pathogens and infectious diseases, workplace violence and slips, trips and falls.

According to BLS, the rate of nonfatal injuries requiring days away from work for health care support workers in 2010 increased 6 percent to 283 cases per 10,000 full-time workers-almost 2.5 times the rate for all private and public sector workers.

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