TUMWATER – April 9, 2020 — While many workers in Washington are hunkering down in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19), thousands of essential workers are still on the job.

Workers in grocery stores and at other essential businesses are facing exposure so everyone else can purchase food and supplies, and get other essential services.

This week the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has issued specific guidance for the grocery and retail industry to go along with previously released general guidance for workplaces.

Protecting grocery workers from coronavirus

The L&I guidance requires stores to have a social distancing plan, ensure frequent hand washing, and provide basic education to staff about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus. To protect workers, L&I strongly recommends steps like installing hand sanitizer dispensers for customers, ensuring people handling money and retrieving carts are wearing gloves, and marking on the floor and enforcing six-foot increments at checkout stands.

“Grocery and retail workers are there so the rest of us can have access to important goods and supplies,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director in charge of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). “We have to do everything in our power to keep them as safe as possible, and we ask customers to help keep them safe by practicing sensible social distancing habits when shopping.”

The L&I guidance also includes specifics for cleaning and sanitizing stores, recommends stocking and deep cleaning while the store is closed, and suggests prohibiting the use of reusable shopping bags.

Guidance for specific industries

Along with the guidance for grocery and retail workers, L&I has issued guidance for janitorial workers, the trucking industry, long-term care workers, and the construction industry. All are available on the L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health coronavirus webpage. The agency is consulting with advocates for agricultural workers and the farming industry on agricultural guidance and expects to release it soon.

The nature of the outbreak changes daily and it’s important for the public and employers to stay on top of the most current information. L&I has launched a COVID-19 webpagewith links to helpful information and resources. The department also recommends the federal OSHA workplace guidance to help employers prepare and deal with the outbreak.

The state coronavirus.wa.gov webpage has links to important information and guidance related to the pandemic from numerous state agencies.

Information is the best resource to keep workers and the public as safe as possible. L&I is urging employers to stay as informed as possible, and to take all measures necessary to keep Washington workers safe and healthy.