OSHA Launches Enforcement National Emphasis Program Targeting Warehouses, Distribution Centers and High-Risk Retailers

By Eric J. Conn and Darius Rohani-Shukla of Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s National OSHA Practice

On July 13, 2023, OSHA announced a new enforcement National Emphasis Program focused on Warehousing and Distribution Center Operations.  The new NEP was signed-off by the Head of OSHA a month ago – on June 14, 2023 – so it became effective as of July 13, just as the public was first learning about it.  We have combed through the Directive for OSHA’s new Warehouses NEP and identified the following key information that warehouse operators and retailers need to know.

What motivated OSHA to Launch the Warehouses NEP?

Over the last ten years, warehousing and distribution centers have experienced tremendous growth, with the number of estimated employees in that industry nearly tripling from 2011 to 2021.  As part of that growth, the injury and illness rate in that space has also dramatically increased.  Specifically, OSHA’s perspective is that this NEP is warranted because of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data that shows that injury and illness rates for the establishments covered by the NEP are significantly higher than the overall industry average.  As a result, OSHA’s new Warehouses NEP is tailored to address the hazards in those workplaces that OSHA deems as posing the most safety and health hazards.

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Doug Parker, had this to say about the new Warehouses NEP:

“Our enforcement efforts are designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety.  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.”

What Employers are covered by this NEP?

This NEP targets warehouse-related industries as identified by seven NAICS codes, as well as a set of “high-injury retail establishments,” as identified by five NAICS codes.  Here are the specific warehouse industry segments covered by the NEP:

The so-called “high-injury rate retail establishments” are a subset of the retail industry with particularly high industry average DART rates; i.e., high rates of injuries and illnesses that cause days away from work, restricted duty, or job transfer.  They were included because OSHA believes they present the same or similar hazards as warehousing and distribution facilities, particularly in loading and storage areas.  Here are the specific retail industry segments covered by this NEP: Continue reading