OSHA Clarifies Policy on National Emergency Management Plan

Feb. 4, 2004
OSHA has issued its National Emergency Management Plan (NEMP), a new directive that clarifies the agency's policies during responses to national emergencies, ensuring personnel and logistical and operational assistance are in place to provide technical assistance and guidance for responder and recovery workers health and safety.

"OSHA is committed to helping assure the health and safety of workers including those involved in emergencies," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This plan ensures that OSHA is prepared to provide the necessary technical support and assistance during a national emergency, whether it originates from a natural or manmade disaster."

Bob Stephan, special assistant to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, said, "The safety and health of emergency response and recovery workers is a critical element of our nation's domestic preparedness and emergency response efforts.

The NEMP details OSHA's roles and responsibilities during responses to nationally significant incidents, such as those that result in a Presidential Emergency Declaration, the activation of the Federal Response Plan, or a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security. It also includes the primary roles and functions that the agency's national and regional offices will assume while planning for and responding to a nationally significant incident. Each region is required to develop a Regional Emergency Management Plan (REMP) and coordinate with state-plan states and consultation projects to ensure that roles and responsibilities for OSHA's federal, state and local offices in the region are coordinated in their efforts to respond to an emergency.

The new directive establishes an Emergency Preparedness Executive Steering Committee. and OSHA will create specialized response teams (Toxic Chemicals, Biological Agents, Ionizing Radiation and Structural Collapse) enhance the agency's response capabilities for incidents involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The teams will be comprised of OSHA personnel from the health response team (HRT) and by other national, regional and area office personnel with subject matter expertise.

OSHA's NEMP is a change in the federal program, and state plan adoption is not required. However, state plans must coordinate with their regional administrator to assure that appropriate procedures are in place. States can develop their own internal response plan and implementation procedures, and should share these documents with their regional administrator.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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