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COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers

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On May 1, Gov. Jay Inslee outlined the "Safe Start" approach for Washington state to begin reopening some businesses safely and continue essential businesses. In support of this effort, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) developed the following requirements to protect workers in those industries. These general safety and health requirements apply to all businesses operating, including essential business. They're in addition to any industry-specific requirements developed separately and will be updated as necessary.

All businesses operating must adopt a written procedure for employee safety and customer interaction that is at least as strict as this procedure and complies with the safety and health requirements below.

Safety and Health Requirements

All businesses have a general obligation to keep a safe and healthy worksite in accordance with state and federal law and safety and health rules for a variety of workplace hazards. In addition, they must comply with the following COVID-19 worksite-specific safety practices as outlined in the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Proclamation 20-25, and in accordance with L&I General Requirements and Prevention Ideas for Workplaces and the Washington State Department of Health Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations at

Employers must specifically ensure operations follow the main L&I COVID-19 requirements to protect workers, including:

  • Educate workers in the language they understand best about coronavirus and how to prevent transmission and the employer’s COVID-19 policies.
  • Maintain minimum six-foot separation between all employees (and customers) in all interactions at all times. When strict physical distancing is not feasible for a specific task, other prevention measures are required, such as use of barriers, minimize staff or customers in narrow or enclosed areas, stagger breaks, and work shift starts.
  • Provide at no cost to employees and require to be worn personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, face shields and face masks as appropriate or required for the activity being performed. Cloth facial coverings must be worn by every employee not working alone on the jobsite unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under L&I safety and health rules and guidance. Refer to Coronavirus Facial Covering and Mask Requirements for additional details. A cloth facial covering is described in the Department of Health guidance,
  • Ensure frequent and adequate hand washing with adequate maintenance of supplies. Use disposable gloves where safe and applicable to prevent transmission on tools or other items that are shared.
  • Establish a housekeeping schedule that includes frequent cleaning and sanitizing with a particular emphasis on commonly touched surfaces.
  • Screen employees for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 at start of shift. Make sure sick employees stay home or immediately go home if they feel or appear sick. Cordon off any areas where an employee with probable or confirmed COVID-19 illness worked, touched surfaces, etc. until the area and equipment is cleaned and sanitized. Follow the cleaning guidelines set by the CDC to deep clean and sanitize.

A site-specific COVID-19 supervisor shall be designated by the employer at each job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the COVID-19 job site safety plan.

A worker may refuse to perform unsafe work, including hazards created by COVID-19. And, it is unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against a worker who has engaged in safety-protected activities under the law if the individual’s work refusal meets certain requirements. Information is available in these publications: Safety and Health Discrimination in the Workplace brochure and Spanish Safety and Health Discrimination brochure.

Employees who choose to remove themselves from a worksite because they do not believe it is safe to work due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure may have access to certain leave or unemployment benefits. Employers must provide high-risk individuals covered by Proclamation 20-46 with their choice of access to available employer-granted accrued leave or unemployment benefits if an alternative work arrangement is not feasible. Other employees may have access to expanded family and medical leave included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, access to use unemployment benefits, or access to other paid time off depending on the circumstances. Additional information is available at Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19) Resources and Paid Leave under the WA Family Care Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

No business may operate until they can meet and maintain all the requirements in this document, including providing materials, schedules and equipment required to comply. Additional considerations may be adopted, as appropriate.

All issues regarding worker safety and health are subject to enforcement action under L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).

Download state Labor & Industries Safety and Health Discrimination in the Workplace brochure.

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