Since Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close on March 19, 2020, businesses that have been permitted to keep their physical locations open have been searching for guidance from the government as to how to ensure the safety of their employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, on April 15, 2020, Rachel Levine, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, signed an Order directing all such businesses, aside from health care providers, to implement various safety measures and protocols, described below, to protect employees and the public. Enforcement of the Order begins on Sunday, April 19, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Measures
Aside from maintaining pre-existing cleaning protocols, businesses must routinely disinfect high-touch areas that are accessible to customers or others, in accordance with CDC Guidelines .
The Secretary’s Order requires businesses to implement the following protocols upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19: (1) close off areas visited by that person; (2) open doors and windows and use ventilation fans; (3) wait a minimum of 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. The Order lists the following examples of areas that should be cleaned and disinfected: offices, bathrooms, common areas including but not limited to employee break rooms, conference or training rooms and dining facilities, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines.
Guidance for Businesses Exposed to COVID-19
According to the Secretary’s Order, if a business has been exposed to a person with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, the business must identify all employees that were in close contact (i.e., within 6 feet for about 10 minutes) with the person from the period 48 hours before symptom onset to the time that person was isolated. If the employees remain asymptomatic, they should follow this CDC Guidance.
If an employee becomes sick at work: (1) the employee should be sent home immediately; (2) employer should close off employee’s workspace and wait 24 hours; (3) the employee’s workspace should then be cleaned and disinfected; (4) employer should compile a list of all employees who were in contact with the sick employee within 48 hours of symptoms; (5) employer should promptly notify all such employees; (6) employer must ensure that a sufficient number of employees are available to perform the above procedures. In addition to these measures, employer must implement temperature screening before each employee begins each shift and only allow employees to work who have a temperature of less than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Employees who show symptoms of COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and stay home until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation have been met.
General Employee Safety Protocols
Under the Secretary’s Order, businesses must implement the following measures to ensure employee safety:
- Stagger shifts of employees when practicable to prevent gatherings of large groups entering or leaving the business premises at the same time.
- Provide sufficient space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet and arranging seating so employees do not face each other.
- Stagger employee breaks to ensure appropriate social distancing of 6 feet.
- Limit number of people in employee common areas to ensure social distancing of 6 feet.
- Conduct meetings and trainings virtually.
- If a meeting must be held in person, limit the meeting to the fewest number of employees possible—not to exceed 10 employees—and maintain a social distance of 6 feet.
- Provide employees with access to regular handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
- Ensure that common areas are cleaned on a regular basis, including between any shifts.
- Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business (employers may approve masks obtained/made by employees in accordance with Department of Health guidance).
- Make it a mandatory requirement that employees wear masks on the work site except during breaks or time used to eat or drink.
- Ensure the business has a sufficient number of employees to control access to the business, maintain order, enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet and perform the above measures effectively while ensuring the safety of the public and employees.
- Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the premises of the business.
- Ensure that all employees are made aware of the above measures by communicating the measures to them, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language, as well as English or by a methodology that allows them to understand.
Measures Applicable to Businesses That Serve the Public Within a Building or Defined Area (e.g. retail stores)
Businesses operating a physical location within a building or defined area that is open to the public must implement the following measures:
- Where feasible, conduct business with the public by appointment only.
- Where conducting business by appointment only is infeasible: (1) limit occupancy to no greater than 50% of the number stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy at any given time; (2) maintain a social distance of 6 feet at check-out and counter lines; and (3) place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees.
- Alter their hours of business, based on the building size and number of employees, so that the business has sufficient time to clean or restock or both.
- Install shields or other barriers at registers and checkout areas to physically separate cashiers and customer or take other measures to ensure social distancing of customers from checkout personnel, or close lines to maintain a social distance of 6 feet between lines.
- Encourage the use of online ordering by providing delivery or pick-up options.
- Designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business at least once every week if there is a continuing in-person customer-facing component.
- Require all customers to wear masks while on the premises and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medications, medical supplies, or food, in which case the business must provide alternative methods of pick-up or delivery of such goods. However, individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition may enter the premises and cannot be required to provide documentation of such medical condition.
- Businesses that have multiple checkout lines must only use every other register or fewer. After every hour, businesses must rotate customers and employees to the previously closed registers and clean the previously open registers and the surrounding area, including credit card machines.
- Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour.
- Where carts and handbaskets are available for customers’ use, assign an employee to wipe down the carts and handbaskets before they become available to each customer entering the premises.
Our attorneys are here to assist you in interpreting the Secretary’s Order and in implementing the above mandatory measures in your business. Please contact us using the form below, or give us a call at 610-797-9000. We wish you well during these extraordinary times.