By Benjamin D. BriggsLynn Kappelman, Adam R. Young, Matthew A. Sloan, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has issued COVID-19 guidance for retail employers, including tips that can help reduce employees’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus. OSHA’s recommendations feature administrative controls, hygiene measures, face coverings, and social distancing.

Previously, OSHA released a Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, with recommendations for protecting employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Workers is among the first industry-specific guidance released by OSHA.

While the Agency’s guidance is advisory and non-mandatory, it provides useful tools for retail businesses seeking to protect employees and customers during the pandemic.  To that end, OSHA’s recommendations include:

  • Encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick;
  • Providing a place to wash hands or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol;
  • Maintaining regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment with Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or those that have label claims against the coronavirus;
  • Practicing sensible social distancing, maintaining six feet between co-workers and customers, where possible;
  • Using a drive-through window or curbside pick-up;
  • Providing workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles;
  • Training workers in proper hygiene practices and the use of workplace controls;
  • Allowing workers to wear masks/face coverings over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus; and
  • Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.

These recommendations largely track previous recommendations from OSHA and the CDC, including the CDC’s recent recommendation that individuals wear cloth face coverings in public to prevent the risk of disease transmission. As we discussed in another article, the new face covering recommendations raise important safety questions and even legal challenges for employers.

It is also important to note that several state and local emergency orders have authorized more stringent requirements and recommendations than those of OSHA and the CDC for essential retailers on issues like the use of cloth face coverings, social distancing, and pre-shift employee health screening.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) or the Retail, Wholesale & Distribution Teams.