National Emphasis Programs

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: November 26, 2023

What Does National Emphasis Programs Mean?

National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) are temporary programs instituted by federal OSHA to focus more of its resources on specific hazards and high-hazard industries. Some states and territories under OSHA's direct jurisdiction have also implemented NEPs of their own.

Through its NEPs, OSHA intensifies its outreach efforts for industries deemed to carry a higher risk to health and safety. It also increases the frequency of inspections and ramps up enforcement for certain hazards.

Safeopedia Explains National Emphasis Programs

The NEP programs are evaluated using reports from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), inspection data, injury and illness data, and other metrics. OSHA's current National Emphasis Programs include:

  • Combustible dust – This NEP was introduced in 2007 after a number of serious incidents caused by combustible dust, and later reissued in 2008 following a catastrophic explosion in a sugar refinery.
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – This directive was implemented to ensure the protection of employees in industries with a large number of workers at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
  • Fall prevention/protection – Falls routinely top OSHA's annual list of most cited safety standards. This NEP focuses in particular on the construction industry, as it records the highest number of fatal falls to lower levels. Non-construction inspections will target activities like rooftop work, arborists, billboards and road sign maintenance, building power washing, and window cleaning.
  • Hazardous machinery – This NEP was implemented to reduce workplace hazards from heavy machinery that put manufacturing workers at risk of amputation.
  • Heat – This NEP aims to protect employees from heat-related hazards in indoor and outdoor workplace settings. The intention is to encourage employers to intervene early by providing adequate training, copious clean water and other fluids to encourage hydration, and shaded break areas for workers to avoid overheating.
  • Respirable crystalline silica – Includes policies and procedures to identify and reduce exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the general, construction, and maritime industries. It focuses on the enforcement of two standards: 29 CFR 1910.1053 and 29 CFR 1926.1153.
  • Trenching and excavation – Continuous cases of trench or excavation collapse have led to the agency increasing its enforcement presence at these worksites.

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