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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWLP)– The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced the creation of a national emphasis program to prevent workplace hazards in warehouses, processing facilities distribution centers, and high-risk retail establishments including mail, parcel processing, and local delivery facilities.

Under the new plan, inspections will be focused on hazards related to powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling and storage, walking and working surfaces, means of egress and fire protection. The program will include inspections of retail establishments with high injury rates targeting storage and loading areas. The agency may expand an inspection’s scope when evidence shows that violations may exist in other areas of the establishment.

Additionally, OSHA will be looking for heat and ergonomic hazards and other health related issues.

These types of facilities have seen rapid growth in recent years, with more than 1.9 million people employed in the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows injury and illness rates for these establishments are higher than in private industry overall and, in some sectors, more than twice the rate of private industry.

“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.”

Inspected establishments will be chosen from two lists:

  • Establishments with industry codes covered under the emphasis program and,
  • A limited number of retail establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses resulting in days away, restricted duty or job transfer.

State plans will be required to adopt the new program or implement a different program at least as effective as the federal model.