Coronavirus protections for retail and other workers interacting with the public

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued recommendations for protecting workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued recommendations for employers to protect workers at “medium exposure risk” to the coronavirus. Those are people who work jobs that require frequent contact with the public and sometimes within 6 feet, such as in retail businesses.

The recommendations, which do not carry any legal obligations for employers, include:

  • Collaborate with workers to designate effective means of communicating important information about the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where feasible.
  • Consider offering face masks to ill employees and customers to contain respiratory secretions until they are able leave. A reusable face shield that can be decontaminated may be an alternative.
  • Keep customers informed about symptoms of COVID-19 and ask sick customers to minimize contact with workers. Post signs about COVID-19 in stores where sick customers may visit (in pharmacies, for example) or include COVID-19 information in automated messages sent when prescriptions are ready for pickup.
  • Where appropriate, limit customers’ and the public’s access to the worksite, or restrict access to only certain areas.
  • Consider strategies to minimize face-to-face contact, such as drive-thru windows, phone-based communication and telework.
  • Communicate the availability of medical screening or other worker health resources.
  • When selecting personal protective equipment (PPE), consider factors such as function, fit, decontamination ability, disposal and cost. Sometimes, when PPE will have to be used repeatedly for a long period of time, a more expensive and durable type of PPE may be less expensive overall than disposable PPE.
  • Each employer should select the combination of PPE that protects workers specific to their workplace.
  • Workers with medium exposure risk may need to wear some combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or a face shield or goggles. PPE for workers in the medium exposure risk category will vary by work task, the results of the employer’s hazard assessment, and the types of exposures workers have on the job.
  • For the most up-to-date information, visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage: gov/COVID-19.

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