Labor & Employment Law Daily OSHA offers safety tips for retailer employers during the COVID-19 pandemic
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Monday, April 13, 2020

OSHA offers safety tips for retailer employers during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Many of the safety tips also apply to other employers.

As employers continue to develop safety strategies, both employers still operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and those subject to state and local closure orders that will at some point expire, OSHA on April 8 released an alert for retail employers. Many of the federal agency’s safety tips also serve as practice tips for other types of employers struggling to limit worker exposure to coronavirus.

Safety tips. The alert offers these safety measures that employers can implement to protect employees working in pharmacies, supermarkets, big box stores, and other retail establishments:

  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Provide a place to wash hands or alcohol-based hand 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 (e.g., demarcate six-foot distances with floor tape in checkout lines).
  • Workplaces in which 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.
  • Permit workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

The new alert is available for download in English and Spanish.

Do not retaliate! Separately, OSHA reminded employers that it’s against the law to retaliate against workers because they report unsafe or unhealthful working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Acts of retaliation can include:

  • Terminations
  • Demotions
  • Denials of overtime or promotion
  • Reductions in pay or hours

“Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt. “Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately.”

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