Note: This blog post was last updated on February 11th 2020. Regulations and guidelines continue to evolve and we will continue to update this post as they come out.
A Call for Stringent Employee Safety Regulations
Adjusting to new guidelines and regulations is challenging. At the start of the pandemic, individuals didn’t know how to protect themselves, nonetheless their own staff and customers. However, as we learn more and more about COVID-19, protection measures become clearer. With the onset of 2021 and the new administration, employee protection under COVID-19 is top of mind. In fact, in one of his first days of office, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) that called on OSHA to release clear guidance for employers on how to keep their employees safe from COVID-19 exposure. Our goal with this blog post is to centralize all information, regulations and guidelines around employee safety in the foodservice workplace.
NATIONWIDE: OSHA GUIDELINES
Following Biden’s EO, OSHA released a new set of guidelines on January 29, 2021, called “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.” This set of guidelines calls for implementing a coronavirus prevention program which includes elements such as adopting non-punitive policies for employee absences, ensuring policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-english speaking workers, and implementing protections for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns.
Among the guidelines, OSHA advises employers to provide the supplies necessary for good hygiene including providing workers with time for handwashing and posting visual cues within the workplace to promote hand hygiene.
Provide workers with time to wash their hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) or to use hand sanitizer. Inform workers that if their hands are visibly dirty, soap and water is preferable to hand sanitizer. Key times for workers to clean their hands include:
- Before and after work shifts
- Before and after work breaks
- After blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After using the restroom
- Before and after eating or preparing food
- After putting on, touching, or removing PPE or face coverings
- After coming into contact with surfaces touched by other people
There are also restaurant and food specific guidelines which encourage social distancing, contactless ordering, and more.
However, these guidelines are recommendations and do not have any enforceable legal obligations. In fact, these guidelines are considered a first step and could be followed by an emergency temporary standard which could be enforceable.
STATE EMPLOYEE SAFETY REGULATIONS
Prior to national legislation, state-specific legislation has set the precedent to include stricter guidelines around employee safety and handwashing.
New Jersey: Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed an Executive Order establishing new health and safety requirements for employers with employees who are physically present in the workplace, which includes a callout around handwashing.
- “Employers must ensure that employees regularly wash their hands, which may include providing additional break time or rearranging the workplace to facilitate better access to handwashing facilities.”
California: California passed Assembly Bill No. 1867 with mandatory handwashing requirements for food sector workers, mandating that employees, “shall be permitted to wash their hands every 30 minutes and additionally as needed.”
Your State’s Regulations and Requirements
For your state plan, use this free tool by OSHA to help you understand what regulations you must comply with. Keep in mind that this resource may be updated in March. For COVID-19 specific requirements, leverage this free guide from our partners at Opus Training.
Moving Forward in Safety Regulation Compliance
As we become more knowledgeable of the implications of COVID-19, and more aware of the ways we can protect ourselves and our community from its exposure, adhering to new regulations becomes of utmost importance. Even if current guidelines don’t impact your business, it will be less disruptive and possibly less costly to prepare for any future regulation rollouts that can affect how you regulate the safety of your workplace. As more regulations come out, we will continue our efforts to update you here. In the meantime, consider leveraging technology to enhance your business’ SOPs and to comply with safety standards. Integrations worth looking into include packaging, delivery, and sanitation technology.