OSHA Issues New Safety Guidelines for Restaurants

May 4, 2020Alerts

In the latest of a series of industry-specific safety alerts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new safety guidelines for restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines are aimed at providing safety measures for restaurants to limit contact with the public through takeout or curbside pickup services. This requires the implementation of specific plans to avoid direct contact with customers and to effectively communicate those plans to employees and customers to ensure that they are followed.

Several of OSHA’s new guidelines apply equally across all industries.  For example:

  • OSHA notes that restaurants should encourage employees who are sick or displaying symptoms to stay home.
  • OSHA also suggests training workers in proper hygiene practices and providing a place to wash hands or sanitizing with alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol. This may include additional workplace controls and increased signage to remind employees to take these measures more frequently.
  • Surfaces and equipment should be routinely cleaned and disinfected with cleaning chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency on this list . It is good practice for restaurants to do the same for heavily trafficked areas or surfaces.
  • Allow workers to wear masks or potentially other personal protective equipment to help prevent the spread.
  • Keep an open dialogue with employees about any safety and health concerns.

The remainder of the guidelines are more specific to the restaurant industry. They include:

  • Avoiding direct hand-off of an order. Restaurants may want to have a designated pick up area or arrange a place to drop it off with the customer in advance.
  • Displaying a door or sidewalk sign with the services available, the instructions for pickup and hours of operation. It may be helpful to include this information when the order is being placed.
  • Using reserved parking spaces near the front door that are designated for curbside pickup only.  If reserved spaces are not possible, then the restaurant should create a method that is communicated to the customer.
  • Practicing social distancing by maintaining six feet of separation between employees and customers.  Where appropriate, OSHA suggests marking the floor with floor tape on pickup lines. Customers should be encouraged to pay in advance to avoid prolonged contact with cashiers. Finally, employers should move work stations or install plexiglass partitions, if feasible.

While none of the suggestions in the new guidelines are all that surprising, they do highlight the need to maintain a safe workplace for employees in the restaurant, food and beverage industries. OSHA, which is the federal agency overseeing safety and health in the workplace, will likely play an important role as stay-at-home orders are lifted and employees return to the workplace.

Employers in the restaurant industry should remain alert for further guidance from OSHA and possible enforcement efforts from the agency. In addition, it is likely that more specific guidance will come from state and local governmental agencies including, but not limited to, departments of health.

Fox Rothschild LLP stands ready to assist with providing solutions to these human resource challenges. For more information about this alert, please contact Wayne E. Pinkstone at  609.895.7063 or [email protected], Carolyn D. Richmond at [email protected] or 212.878.7983, or any member of the firm’s national Labor & Employment Department.

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