The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will begin issuing industry-specific guidance to protect American workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance to date has been in the form of “tips” rather than mandates, but employers in the applicable industries should pay careful attention to this guidance.
So far, OSHA has issued guidance only for the retail industry (e.g. pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box stores), available here. This guidance advises retail employers to:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Provide a place to wash hands or alcohol-based rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment with Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus.
- Practice sensible social distancing, maintaining six feet between co-workers and customers, where possible. For example, some worksites have already begun to demarcate six-foot distances with floor tape in checkout lines. Workplaces where social distancing is a challenge should consider innovative approaches, such as opening only every other cash register, temporarily moving workstations to create more distance, and installing plexiglass partitions.
- Use a drive-through window or curbside pick-up.
- Provide workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Train workers in proper hygiene practices and the use of workplace controls.
- Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
Employers in all industries need to remain abreast of the current recommendations pertaining to their specific industry. As new guidelines become published, employers should abide by the recommendations in order to ensure that they are acting according to the appropriate standard of care.
Any new industry-specific guidance will likely be uploaded on the Publication portal on the OSHA website, available here.