Many businesses are reopening their doors as states lift closure orders. While a plan to reopen will look different for each company, all employers should ensure they are taking appropriate cleaning and safety measures to reduce possible exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended several measures that employers can implement to protect workers from COVID-19, and developed interim guidance for specific worker groups. One such group is environmental, or janitorial, services.

OSHA recommends that environmental services employers evaluate tasks according to employee exposure risk levels and implement an appropriate combination of engineering and administrative controls, safe-work practices, and personal equipment needed to protect their workforces. Such recommendations include:

  1. Engineering controls – Employers should ensure that areas being cleaned have proper ventilation.
  2. Administrative controls – Employers should restrict access to any area that may have been contaminated. This includes posting signage and permitting access only by essential personnel for up to 24 hours whenever possible.
  3. Safe-work practices – Employers should instruct environmental services to avoid practices such as dry sweeping or other cleaning procedures that could re-suspend infectious particles back into the air. Employers should also encourage workers to practice good hygiene and avoid touching their faces..
  4. Personal protective equipment – Employers should evaluate whether environmental services workers’ hazards and risk assessments warrant the use of PPE beyond what is used routinely.

Remember that, as a general rule, employers should be aware and remain alert of changing outbreak conditions in their communities and adjust control measures in their workplaces accordingly. The above-discussed OSHA environmental services guidance is meant to supplement OSHA’s general interim guidance on environmental cleaning and decontamination. Workers performing environmental services in health-care settings should follow OSHA guidance for health-care workers.

Additional resources regarding cleaning and disinfection can be found in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes and associated decision tool.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) updated its guidance to all employers, including additional recommendations for routine cleaning as part of a California employer’s injury and illness prevention program. Among the guidance, Cal/OSHA specifies the following procedures to be implemented for commonly touched surfaces:

  • Using EPA-approved disinfectants against the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Providing EPA-registered disposable wipes for employees to wipe down commonly used surfaces before use.
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (for example, safety requirements, PPE, concentration, and contact time).
  • Ensuring adequate supplies to support cleaning and disinfection practices.

Reed Smith provided an overview of OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 in an earlier blogpost entitled Returning to work safely.

The recommendations above may change and we advise that you double check the information provided against links to government agencies keep up with the latest changes in this very fluid situation.