Reducing Risk, Protecting People

How to Comply With the New Warehouse NEP

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems | 24th Jul 2023

Earlier this month, on July 13th, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to address injury and illness concerns in warehouses, distribution centers, and “high-risk” retailers. The new OSHA guidelines summarize a series of new policies and regulations designed to minimize worker exposure to workplace hazards. It classifies several industries as high-risk and provides direction to limit common workplace hazards including powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling/storage, walking-working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection.

Who is Included in the Warehouse NEP?
The new guidelines were implemented as a response to the exponential growth in this sector, with more than 1.9 million people employed in the warehousing and distribution center industry in the past 10 years. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, this group also experiences over twice the rate of injury and illnesses compared to private industry. The goal of the NEP is to give OSHA a three year period to conduct comprehensive safety inspections as they relate to hazards in these industries, while also using this as an opportunity to examine heat and ergonomic hazards. You may be considered for inspection if your establishment falls under either of the two core inspection lists:

  1. You are a direct establishment with an industry code covered under the emphasis (warehousing, distribution, mail, postal, parcel delivery, and courier services).
  2. You are in a limited number of retail establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses resulting in days away, restricted duty, or job transfers.

NEP Overview
NEPs are provisional directives that focus OSHA resources in a certain area, and provide guidelines for specific hazards and high-risk industries. New NEPs are developed as a result of newly identified needs or threats that require OSHA resources; evaluations of existing and potential new NEPs are made based on OSHA inspection data, injury and illness data, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports, peer-reviewed literature, analysis of inspection findings, and other available information sources. OSHA implements NEP programs to ensure U.S. employees have safe and healthy workplace environments. NEPs help standardize safety standards by providing training, education, outreach, and technical assistance.

Additional Retailers Included in the NEP
The new NEP seeks to limit injury and illness rates in the warehousing and distributing sectors as they keep growing. In addition to this, OSHA is using this NEP as an opportunity to target high injury rate retail establishments as they experience similar hazards to warehousing facilities. The NEP provides procedures for conducting partial safety inspections in these areas. High risk retail industries that are likely to be included in this are as follows:

  • Home centers
  • Hardware stores
  • Other building material dealers
  • Supermarkets and other grocery (except convenience) stores
  • Warehouse clubs and supercenters

The NEP allows OSHA personnel to inspect the loading and storage areas of these retail areas, although they can expand their scope if evidence shows that violations may exist in other areas of the facility.

OSHA and the Department of Labor strongly encourage states to adopt new safety standards, but it is up to state officials' discretion whether NEPs are implemented. In California and other states with an OSHA State Plan (where the state’s government handles enforcement of safety regulations), it’s up to the state to notify federal OSHA personnel within two months of the effective data if the state intends to adopt the NEP or instead adopt a state-level strategy.

Defining High-Risk Worksites and Priorities for OSHA Inspections
The NEP relies on OSHA area offices to select worksites and carry out inspections. The main OSHA office is responsible for providing each area office with a master list containing the NAICS code of all high-risk worksites. There will be a list of high injury rate retail establishments within each Area Office’s geographical jurisdiction, where they will be required to carry out all of the inspections by the end of this cycle next year. Employees can check the area office lists to determine if their worksite is likely to be examined.

OSHA Inspection Procedures
Typically, an OSHA inspection commences when personnel enter the worksite and provide an opening statement to employees and managers. OSHA personnel can then gather information by requesting documents, walking through the facility, interviewing employees, and reviewing employee health records. The new NEP provides specific guidance on inspections and clarifies when citations can be issued for non-compliant employers.

The NEP also provides guidance on the issues of whistleblowing and worker retaliation. To ensure workers are protected from retaliation if they report non-compliant behavior, employers are urged to report inappropriate behavior to the Whistleblower Protection Program. Personnel can also provide anti-retaliation information during inspections and link employers or workers to resources if necessary.

OSHA aims to assess the effectiveness of this NEP, the Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) supports OSHA’s mission of enforcing standards. After 12 months of this NEP, a review will be conducted to assess their effectiveness. This will include examining:

  1. The number of employers covered by inspections
  2. The number of workers removed from hazards
  3. Abatement measures implemented
  4. Number of violations related to specific targeted hazards
  5. Any indices that relate directly to measures that may be included in DOL Strategic Plan and/or the OSHA Agency Management Plan.

To prepare for OSHA’s increase in inspections, employers should have a written training and maintenance policies and ensure that all of their health and safety protocols are up to date. They should also implement visible signs of injury prevention measures, updated training documentation, and evidence of continual workplace safety maintenance and planning. The specific areas of concern for inspection that workplaces covered in this NEP should focus on are:

Continued OSHA Warehousing Compliance
For the most up-to-date information on OSHA compliance related to the Warehouse NEP, you can check the OSHA website regularly for updates.

And, keep Clarion Safety in mind when updating your visual safety communications in line with changes and regulations to your internal policies. We have a full line-up of workplace safety signs and floor markers - and limitless custom options! We're always here to answer any questions you may have on workplace and machine safety –including risk assessment and machine safeguarding.

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