OSHA Issues Guidance On Reopening for Non-Essential Businesses


By: Hillary Freesmeier

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, has recently released its Guidance on Returning to Work for those businesses that have been deemed “non-essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Guidance directs a Three Phase approach to reopening and identifies several categories employers should address in their reopening plans. OSHA continues to encourage employers to consider ways in which to utilize workplace flexibility, such as teleworking, and alternative business operations to provide goods and services to customers, such as curbside pickup.

During Phase 1, employers should consider allowing employees to telework when possible and feasible. For employees returning to the workplace, employers should consider limiting the number of people in the workplace and maintain strict social distancing practices. Flexibilities should also be offered for high risk workers and for those whose household members are considered to be at high risk. Non-essential business travel should be limited.

During Phase 2, employers should continue to make teleworking available where possible, but can allow non-essential business travel to resume. Restrictions on the number of people in the workplace can be eased, but moderate to strict social distancing should be maintained. Employers should also continue to accommodate vulnerable workers as they did in Phase 1.

During Phase 3, businesses may resume unrestricted staffing.

Employers should also develop and implement policies and procedures for preventing, monitoring, and responding to any possible emergence or resurgence of COVID-19 in their workplace or community.

All reopening plans should address:

  • Hazard assessment, which should include practices and procedures to determine when, where, how, and to what sources of COVID-19 employees are likely to be exposed to in the workplace;
  • Hygiene, including practices for hand washing, cleaning, and disinfection;
  • Social distancing;
  • Identification and isolation of sick employees, including employee self-monitoring, screening, and isolation procedures;
  • Returning to work after an employee recovers from COVID-19 or has completed a self-quarantine after exposure to a person with COVID-19;
  • Controls for safe work practices, including providing for personal protective equipment based on your hazard assessment results;
  • Workplace flexibility for teleworking and sick leave;
  • Training to ensure employees know how to identify the signs, symptoms, and risk factors associated with COVID-19 and to prevent the spread in the workplace;
  • Anti-retaliation for those who adhere to guidelines or raise workplace safety concerns.

The Guidance also provides that employers may:

  • Conduct worksite COVID-19 testing if done in a transparent, non-retaliatory manner, and
  • Take worksite temperature checks or other health screenings, such as temperature/symptom screening, self-checks, self-questionnaires, etc.; however, employers should ensure these are conducted in a confidential manner as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act
    • Be aware that if you decide to record these results, these records may qualify as medical records under the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard, which would require employers to retain the results for 30 years and follow confidentiality standards. However, employers may take employee temperature in real time and forgo maintaining records of the results.

Additional Information:

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at

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