Legal Update

Apr 20, 2020

Pennsylvania Orders Additional Worker Safety Measures to Combat COVID-19

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Secretary of the Department of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order on April 15, 2020, later approved by Governor Wolf, that significantly increased worker safety measures that must be employed by life-sustaining businesses as they continue physical, in-person operations.  The order became enforceable as of April 19, 2020 at 8:00 pm.  Failure to comply with these requirements may result in citations, fines, or license suspensions.

The order provides that businesses approved to continue in-person operations must:

  1. Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business or, in the alternative, to actively approve masks obtained or made by employees as appropriate;
  2. Stagger work start and stop times for employees when practical;
  3. Provide sufficient space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet;
  4. Conduct meetings and training virtually, when possible, and limit any necessary in-person meetings to no more than 10 employees;
  5. Ensure the facility has sufficient personnel to perform all ordered measures effectively, including to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing;
  6. Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the facility; and
  7. Ensure that all employees who do not speak English as their first language are aware of procedures by communicating the procedures, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language.

The order also requires businesses that discover they have been exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 to implement temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to work and send home any employee home with a temperature of 100.4 or higher.  (Employers should bear in mind the EEOC’s recently-revised pandemic guidance that addresses temperature checks related to COVID-19.)  Employers are encouraged to implement liberal paid time off for employees who are on home isolation.  Additionally, such businesses must also:

  1. Close off and ventilate areas visited by the individual with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19;
  2. Wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection;
  3. Clean and disinfect all spaces, with a focus on commonly-used rooms and shared electronic equipment;
  4. Identify and notify all employees who were in close contact with the probable or confirmed case of COVID-19; and
  5. Ensure that the business has sufficient personnel on site to perform these protocols effectively and immediately.

Finally, the order requires non-healthcare businesses that serve the public within a building or defined area to:

  1. Require all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case the business must provide alternative methods of pick-up or delivery of goods, except individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children the age of 2 years) may enter the premises without having to provide medical documentation;
  2. Conduct business with the public by appointment only or, when not feasible, limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on their certificate of occupancy as necessary to reduce crowding in the business and at check-out and counter lines in order to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, and place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees;
  3. Encourage use of online ordering by providing delivery or outside pick-up;
  4. Alter hours of business so that the business has sufficient time to clean or to restock or both;
  5. Install shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers or take other measures to ensure social distancing of customers from check-out personnel, or close lines to maintain a social distance of 6 feet between lines;
  6. 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;
  7. In businesses with multiple check-out lines, only use every other register, or fewer. After every hour, rotate customers and employees to the previously closed registers. Clean the previously open registers and the surrounding area, including credit card machines, following each rotation;
  8. Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour; and
  9. Where carts and handbaskets are available, assign an employee to wipe down carts and handbaskets before they become available to a new customer.

Seyfarth continues to monitor the Wolf Administration’s business-related orders in response to COVID-19 and will provide further updates as available.