Roadmap for Compliance: General and Industry-Specific Guidance for Reopening

We are now on the road to recovery – and the reopening of our businesses. Although most of us wish it were as easy as turning on a light switch, it will not be an overnight fix or a quick return to normal. Rather, it will be a gradual reopening, with strict guidelines and rules in place.

In anticipation of the gradual reopening, California issued general and industry-specific guidance and check lists on how businesses can provide a safe environment for workers and customers.

Our local governments (counties and cities) have also issued additional guidance for those industries that received approval to reopen. For example, the City of Los Angeles issued its own “toolkit” on reopening procedures and Los Angeles County developed mandatory reopening protocols for all business which are permitted to open.

When preparing the reopening plan, employers are advised to review all applicable state, county, and city guidelines, as well as any relevant CDC and Cal/OSHA guidance. Additionally, all businesses are encouraged to frequently review the actual guidelines as they may likely evolve as authorities learn more about COVID-19.

Required Plan for Reopening

Generally, before reopening, the State of California requires all businesses to:

  1. Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan;

  2. Train employees how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for temperature and other symptoms and stay home if they have symptoms or had contact with someone who has symptoms or has been diagnosed;

  3. Implement individual control measures and screenings;

  4. Implement disinfecting protocols; and

  5. Implement physical distancing guidelines.

To help businesses navigate the state guidance we prepared the following summary concerning each of the above factors, based on suggestions in the various guidance documents:

1. Guidance re Worksite Specific Plan

Most guidance documents provide similar suggestions regarding the preparation of a site-specific protection plan. Businesses should:

  • Establish a written, worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan, perform a comprehensive risk assessment at all work areas, and designate a person in charge to implement the plan.

  • Identify contact information for the local health department for communicating information about COVID-19 outbreak among employees.

  • Train and communicate with employees on the plan (see below).

  • Regularly evaluate the workplace for compliance with the plan, and document and correct deficiencies identified.

  • Investigate any COVID-19 illness and determine if any work-related factors could have contributed to risk of infection; update the plan as needed to prevent further cases.

  • Identify close contacts or an infected employee and take steps to isolate COVID-19 positive employees and close contacts.

NOTE: On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that creates a time-limited rebuttable presumption that certain employees who tested positive for COVID-19, contracted the virus while on the job, thus permitting them access to workers’ compensation insurance benefits.

2. Guidance re Employee Training

Generally, businesses should provide training about the following:

  • Information on COVID-19, including on the prevention of spreading and at-risk individuals.

  • How to conduct self-screening at home, including temperature and/or symptom checks.

  • The importance of seeking medical attention if symptoms become severe.

  • Importance of following CDC guidelines re frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol.

  • Importance of physical distancing, both at work and off work time.

  • Proper use of face coverings:
  • Clarify that most face coverings do not protect the wearer and are not considered personal protective equipment.

  • Face coverings can help protect the people near the wearer but do not replace the need for physical distancing and frequent handwashing.

  • Wash/sanitize hands before and after using or adjusting face coverings.

  • Avoid touching eyes/nose/mouth.

  • Wash face coverings after each shift.

3. Guidance re Individual Control Measures, Screenings

Per the various guideline documents, businesses should:

  • Provide temperature and/or symptom screenings for all workers entering the facility (avoid close contact between screener and employees to the extent possible). Both screener and employees should wear face masks during the screening.

  • Encourage employees who are sick or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home.

  • Provide required personal protective equipment.

For office workspaces – employers are required to take reasonable measures to remind employees that they should use face coverings.

For retail establishments – employers must take reasonable measures, including posting signage, to communicate with the public that they should use face coverings.

For the manufacturing industry – additional guidance includes restricting entrance of non-employees to only those classified as essential by management (must also complete temperature and/or symptom screening before entering).

Employers are encouraged to review the guidance document relevant to their business for additional information.

4. Guidance re Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols

Among other requirements, businesses should:

  • Perform thorough cleaning in high traffic areas such as break rooms, lunch areas, and areas of ingress and egress including, stairways and stairwells, handrails, and elevator controls. Frequently disinfect commonly used surfaces, including, doorknobs, toilets, and handwashing facilities.

For retail establishments, frequently disinfect shopping carts, baskets, conveyor belts, registers (including self-checkout), scanners, telephones, hand-held devices, counters, door handles, shelving, ATM PIN pads, buttons, etc.

For auto-dealerships, frequently disinfect counters, credit card machines, touchscreens, doorknobs, armrests, vehicle keys, and vehicles displayed in the showroom (door handles, seat adjustment controls, radio).

  • Ensure that sanitary facilities stay operational and stocked at all times and provide additional hand sanitizer when needed.

  • When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should use products approved for use against COVID-19 on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved list and follow product instructions.

  • Consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners, upgrading the building’s air filters to the highest efficiency possible, and making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in offices and other spaces.

  • Retail establishments are advised to install hands-free devices, if possible. These include, motion sensor lights, contactless payment systems, automatic soap and paper towel dispensers, and timecard systems. Retailers are further advised to adjust or modify work hours to provide adequate time for regular, thorough cleaning and product stocking, and stagger stocking so that associates are in different aisles.

Office-based employers are advised to disinfect shared items (e.g., copiers, fax machines, printers, telephones, keyboards, staplers, surfaces in reception areas, shared work stations, etc.), and require employees to clean and disinfect personal work areas often (employees must be compensated for this time).

The manufacturing industry is advised to restrict employees from sharing phones, office supplies, work tools, etc., stagger breaks, and provide additional sanitary facilities (including portable toilets and handwashing stations) if feasible and necessary to maintain physical distancing during scheduled breaks. No-touch sinks, soap dispensers, sanitizer dispensers, and paper towel dispensers should be installed whenever possible.

Please review the guidance applicable to your businesses for additional information.

5. Physical Distancing Guidelines

Finally, the various guidance documents provide suggestions on how to maintain physical distancing. Generally, businesses should implement measures to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between workers. This can include use of physical partitions or visual cues (e.g., floor markings, or signs to indicate where workers should stand).

Where applicable, employers are encouraged to stagger employee breaks and work schedules and create outdoor break areas with shades and seating that ensures physical distancing.

Additional industry-specific guidance includes:

Office-based employers are encouraged to continue telework options and modified work schedules, limit the number of individuals riding the elevator, require employees to avoid handshakes, etc.

Retailers are advised to install Plexiglas barriers between cashiers and customers (to the extent feasible), consider offering workers who request modified duties options that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., managing inventory rather than working as a cashier), close in-store bars, bulk-bin options, and public seating areas, discontinue product sampling, and dedicate shopping hours for vulnerable populations, etc.

Those in the construction industry and the manufacturing industry are advised to utilize work practices (when feasible and necessary) to limit the number of workers on the jobsite at one time (e.g., staggering shifts or rotating crew access), encourage workers to bring lunch from home or purchase take out or delivery where available as long as they can avoid congested areas, etc.

The delivery industry employers are advised to implement “contactless” deliveries when possible, update package delivery processes so that workers and customers can maintain physical distancing when signing, avoid sharing scanners/pins/other tools with customers, provide messaging via handheld devices and mobile phones to remind workers to maintain physical distance during delivery stops and practice good hygiene, etc.

For additional guidance/suggestions please see our FAQs  previously published here.

Sue M. Bendavid, Nicholas Kanter and Tal Burnovski Yeyni are employment defense attorneys.

This information provides an overview of a specific developing situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact or situation.

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