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Pennsylvania Businesses Directed to Implement Public Health Safety Measures


Pennsylvania Businesses Directed to Implement Public Health Safety Measures

April 17, 2020
Caroline J. Berdzik

Key Takeaways

  • Pennsylvania businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations during the COVID-19 emergency will be required to provide protections for workers

  • These protections involve significant changes to operations, provision of protective equipment, restrictions on customer access, and more

  • The order from Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine will be enforceable at 8 p.m. on April 19, 2020


Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has issued an order requiring protections for critical workers who are employed at businesses that are authorized to maintain in-person operations during the COVID-19 emergency. The order took effect immediately on April 15, 2020, but does not become “enforceable” until 8 p.m. on April 19, 2020.

Gov. Tom Wolf stated that the order “provides critical protections for the workers needed to run and operate these life-sustaining establishments.” Secretary Levine added that the order “will ensure continuity across all life-sustaining businesses and will further our efforts to protect the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians.”

Requirements and Protocols

The order requires any business that is authorized to maintain in-person operations during the COVID-19 public health emergency, other than health care providers, to implement the following protocols:

  • Routinely clean and disinfect high-touch areas in spaces that are accessible to customers, tenants or other individuals in accordance with CDC guidance
  • Maintain pre-existing cleaning protocols established by the business for all other areas of the building
  • Establish protocols for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to any person who is a “probable” or confirmed case of COVID-19, including:
    • Close off areas visited by the person to clean and disinfect
    • Identify all employees that were in close contact (within about six feet for about 10 minutes) with the person
      • If the employee(s) remain asymptomatic, they should simply follow CDC guidelines for those who may have had exposure. If the employee(s) become sick during the work day, they should be sent home immediately and their work areas should be cleaned and disinfected. All employees who were in close contact with any known exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace should be notified consistent with applicable confidentiality laws.
    • Implement temperature screening before any employee enters the business and prior to the start of their work shift, and send home any employee who has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher should be sent home (ensure employees practice social distancing while waiting to have temperatures taken)
    • Require any employee who has symptoms of COVID-19 to notify their supervisor and stay home
    • Require sick employees to follow CDC guidelines and not return to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met
      • Employers are encouraged to implement liberal paid time off for employees who are absent from work pursuant to these protocols.
    • Stagger employee work start and stop times when practicable to prevent gatherings of large groups of employees entering and leaving the workplace at the same time
    • Provide sufficient amount of social distancing space for employee breaks and meals, stagger employee break times, limit the number of employees in break or meal rooms at any one time, and arrange seating to ensure all employees are facing forward rather than across from each other during breaks and meals
    • Conduct meetings virtually; if a meeting must be held in person, limit the meeting to the fewest number of employees possible and not to exceed 10 employees
    • Provide employees access to regular handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes, and ensure that all common areas are cleaned on a regular basis
    • Provide masks for employees to wear while at the workplace and make it a mandatory requirement that employees wear masks while at the workplace
      • Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with Department of Health guidance
    • Ensure that the business has a sufficient number of employees to perform all protocols of the order effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and the employees, including monitoring and controlling access to the business by the public to ensure social distancing of at least six feet
    • Prohibit any non-essential visitors from entering the business premises
    • Ensure that all employees are made aware of the protocols established by the order

In addition to the above, the following measures apply to all business who serve the public within a building or defined area, other than health care providers:

  • Where feasible, conduct business with the public by appointment only
    • To the extent that is not feasible, limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on the applicable certificate of occupancy. Maintain social distancing of six feet at any check-out or counter lines and place signage throughout each work site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees.
  • Alter hours of business to ensure the business has sufficient time to clean and/or restock merchandise
  • Install shields or other barriers at any registers or check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers, and only use every other register or fewer; after every hour, rotate customers and employees to previously closed registers, and clean the previously open registers and surrounding area following each rotation
  • Encourage use of online ordering by providing delivery or pick-up options
  • Designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business at least once per week
  • Require all customers to wear masks while on premises and deny entry to any individual who is not wearing a mask unless the individual cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (any such individual is not required to provide documentation of the medical condition)
  • Schedule handwashing breaks for all employees at least every hour
  • Where shopping carts and handbaskets are available for customer use, assign an employee to wipe down each cart and basket before they become available for customer use

Compliance and Enforcement

Failure to comply with the requirements of the order will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines, or license suspensions. Gov. Wolf has directed state agencies (the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor and Industry, and Pennsylvania State Police) and local officials to enforce all orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic to the full extent of the law.

Employers in Pennsylvania should consult with their employment and labor counsel to ensure they are in compliance with the order.

If you have any questions about these changes to the laws or how it may affect your business, contact: