2021 Employee Safety Regulations in the United States

2021 Employee Safety Regulations in the United States

State of the Industry: 2021 Employee Safety Regulations in the United States

Current and Upcoming Employee Safety Regulations in the United States

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. 


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.


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.

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A Smarter Approach to Food Safety

A Smarter Approach to Food Safety

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the food industry was evolving. However, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for a more real-time, data-driven approach to food safety, so everyone can stay safe during a crisis. To address the many challenges that the food industry is currently facing, the FDA released the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, which represents a new approach to food safety that leverages technology for more effective and modern processes.

The blueprint is founded on four core principles.

  1. Tech-enabled Traceability: Work towards leveraging new technology that can identify outbreaks and trace the origin of contaminated food quickly.

  2. Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response: Use tools to identify when and where contamination might occur and prevent contaminated products from entering the food supply.

  3. New Business Models and Retail Modernization: Prepare for emerging business models that support new ways to produce and distribute food.

  4. Food Safety Culture: Improve the way businesses address food safety.

Of course, as a food safety tool that can detect contamination and provide data about hand hygiene, we’re excited by the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety. It emphasizes the need for new, technology-driven tools that prioritize public health and safety. If you’d like to explore how PathSpot can help you track and measure your handwashing, just click the button below.

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Food Safety Basics

Food Safety Basics

The Four Cs

In response to COVID-19, restaurants are facing a push for stricter and more transparent food safety practices. As you introduce new tools and procedures into your workflow, it’s essential not to let core food safety procedures slip. In other words, don’t forget about the Four Cs of Food Safety.

  1. Clean: Keeping your hands, surfaces, utensils and food clean is the most effective way you can prevent the spread of harmful illnesses & outbreaks. Make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds, scrub produce and thoroughly clean food surfaces before and after you use them.

  2. Cook: Using food thermometers, make sure food is cooked until it reaches the proper internal temperatures to kill any germs.

  3. Chill: Make sure you store your food in properly cooled places to make sure food doesn’t collect harmful bacteria.

  4. Cross Contamination: During your prep and cooking, keep raw meat, seafood and poultry away from any fresh produce.

Transitioning to the new COVID-19 world might feel overwhelming. However, by focusing on the Four Cs, you’re already doing some of the work. Are you interested in supplementing your existing efforts with hand scanners that empower you to monitor and improve your handwashing? Just click the button below!

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Checklist: Prepare to Welcome Guests After COVID-19

Checklist: Prepare to Welcome Guests After COVID-19

We’re all in need of some good news. New cases of COVID-19 are starting to decrease, which means your team can start thinking about opening doors to guests. Though businesses will reopen, it’s important to acknowledge that they’ll look dramatically different than they did before COVID-19. Customers will likely be wary of public spaces and have a higher demand for proper hygiene and food safety measures. Ensure you’re meeting these requirements by thinking about the suggestions below. If you want a PDF version of this list to print out or share, you can download it here.

1. Implement Social Distancing

Social distancing measures will still be in place long after businesses have the green light to reopen, so start thinking about what that may look like in your restaurant. Will you need to reduce the amount of seating in your dining room? Does it make sense to implement a reservation-only policy? Is there anything you can do to show your customers that your kitchen staff is also practicing proper protocols?

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

Photo by PathSpot

2. Retrain your Staff

Properly train your staff about the new norms of your establishment. Go over proper handwashing techniques, outline social distancing rules, and hang up resources they can reference whenever they need to.

3. Level up your Food Safety & Hygiene

When businesses are able to reopen dine-in services, customer expectations for food safety and hand hygiene will be elevated. You can implement obvious and effective hygiene measures to reassure customers that it’s safe to return to your restaurant. Tools and technology like the PathSpot hand scanner can effectively signal to your customers where your priorities lie. This device tracks and monitors hand washing frequency and effectiveness to detect harmful contaminants. By using the scanner, you’ll be able to confidently serve your guests, knowing your team’s hands are contaminant-free and safe to handle food. It’s going to be more important than ever before that you’re doing everything you can to ensure the safety of your staff and customers.

Are you interested in learning how PathSpot can help you prepare for reopening? Contact us here.

Photo by PathSpot

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

4. Update your Menu

When cutting costs, make sure to factor in your menu. Consider trimming down your menu to focus on fan favorites with high margins.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communicating your efforts with your guests is going to be a crucial step to prepare for your reopening. Take the time to update your customers on your reopening date and hours of operations, and explain that you’ll (probably) be taking baby steps to get back to business as usual. More importantly, show your customers you’re meeting proper hygiene standards through visual cues, conversations and marketing channels. For example, PathSpot partners use “My hands are clean” pins to show guests they’re using technology to guarantee proper handwashing.

Photo by PathSpot

We’re thinking about you during these incredibly heavy times, but we will all get through this together. As going back to work becomes more and more tangible, it’s important that you plan for a different dining experience than you’ve been used to. Let us help you with that.

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Help Your Local Restaurants Survive the Coronavirus Crisis

Help Your Local Restaurants Survive the Coronavirus Crisis

What’s Happening to the Food Industry

While every industry is feeling the economic strain created by COVID-19, the restaurant industry is particularly vulnerable to this swift economic downturn. As one of the few Industries where small independent operators account for the majority of jobs (70%), there are few institutional protections to fall back on. Experts estimate that up to half of the 15 million American restaurant workers will lose their jobs and seek unemployment within the next three months, a loss of employment that will have ripple effects far beyond the food industry.

Dine-in Closures Mandated by State in Reaction to COVID-19.png

So far 49 of 50 states have imposed formal restrictions on dine-in services, forcing these groups to subsist on take-out and delivery. However, take-out and delivery are not enough to keep them afloat. Bo Peabody, restaurant owner and Seated co-founder, explains: “During normal times, delivery and pickup is a nice supplement … It could be 5, or 10, or 15 percent of revenue, but when dine-in goes away, it’s probably better to let everybody go on unemployment.” And that’s exactly what the hardest hit restaurants are doing as owners find it increasingly hard to justify the health risks for such low returns.

Larger and larger numbers of chefs like Jose Andres or David Chang are speaking out publicly about the existential threat the food industry faces and are calling for support from all corners.  That means you.

What You Need to Know

Is it safe to order food?

The short answer is yes. The CDC, FDA and WHO emphasize that there is no evidence to support that there is any meaningful spread of coronavirus through food. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is primarily spread through inhaling respiratory droplets, the vast majority of receptors of the virus are found in your lungs and not your digestive tract. In fact, you are probably safer ordering food that has been cooked following food code standards and delivered to you than you are going to the supermarket. If you need to be further convinced on the value of social distancing, check out these helpful graphic from the Washington Post

Safety steps you can take:

Just because it’s safe, doesn’t mean there aren’t precautionary steps you should take to avoid the risk of transmission from the delivery person or from a contaminated surface on your food packaging. When ordering food:

  • Use contactless delivery

  • Leave the outermost packaging (bag) outside of your house to be recycled or discarded later

  • Wash your hands before opening containers of food

  • Transfer all your food to your own plates and use your own utensils

  • Recycle or discard packaging

  • Wash your hands again before eating

How Else Can You Help?

It is important to support restaurants in their time of need and continuing to order takeout and delivery is an important step to take. Participate in events like #theGreatAmericanTakeout and try and order more if you can. Several restaurants are offering cheaper deals during this time, so take advantage. As we mentioned earlier though, it is very unlikely that your favorite independent operators can survive on delivery alone. In order to further support the restaurants you love:

  • Tip generously. As cookbook author, Genevieve Ko, puts it: “give whatever you can above the standard 20%.”

  • Donate to these relief funds that have been set up to support food workers in their time of need.

  • Call for government action by calling your representative and signing this petition. Tell them to support the food industry and that the big chains represent only a third of that industry.

If you need a reminder of why you’re doing this, just order from your favorite restaurant and read this article about restaurant workers feeding hospital workers in this time of need and see how it makes you feel.

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COVID-19 Food Safety Updates for Restaurants

COVID-19 Food Safety Updates for Restaurants

To Our Foodservice Friends, We’re Here For You.

We know these are uncertain times as many teams (big and small) are forced to make heartwrenching decisions in order to weather this storm. During this time, we want to emphasize our unwavering support for you and your teams. We will be sharing this list of restaurant relief funds with our network, encouraging everyone who can to donate. We are proud to work in this industry where, even in tough times, restaurants continue to go above and beyond to support their communities.

Sharing Insights – Food Safety is Still in Our Hands

We know to limit the spread of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to handwash effectively. We’ve collected data from scanning millions of hands, and the data shows common “hot spots” or areas that are frequently missed. Remind your employees to scrub under their fingernails, remove jewelry before working, and be mindful of these commonly missed spots! Want a free version of the below sign? Download a copy here.

Restaurant Dine-in Closures: The Transition to Delivery & Take-out

As of March 19th, most states have mandated the closure of all restaurant dine-in options. Our map below shows the most recent updates from each state. Nation’s Restaurant News reported that visits to QSR are up 11% nationally since the coronavirus outbreak. The closures are calling for dine-in restaurants to pivot to a similar model, employing delivery, curbside pickup, and take-out to drive business until dine-in options can resume.

Toast: How to Manage Your Restaurant During the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Combating Customer Fear

Restaurant customers are more conscious of food safety practices than ever and have an increased level of fear surrounding food options. It’s critical to get the word out to customers that food safety is a top priority, especially during this time. Whether it be including messaging in your take-out packaging or publicizing your food safey technology on social media, communicating with customers will help build trust.

QSR Magazine: Coronavirus Crisis Communications for Restaurants: A Checklist

We Want to Help

  • For any PathSpot partners that must close all operations, we will pause billing during this time.

  • We’re working with our partners to communicate their commitment to hand hygiene to their customers, including sending “My Hands Are Clean” pins for delivery employees and window decals to highlight handwashing verified with PathSpot.

  • We want to share what we’ve learned from analyzing millions of handwashes with real-time detection – download the Hot Spots sign for your location(s).

Please let us know what else we can do to support you!

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