May 18, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker released more details of a four-phase reopening of the Massachusetts economy, with restrictions beginning to lift immediately in “Phase 1” for the construction and manufacturing industries, as well as certain healthcare services. The plan for reopening developed by the Reopening Advisory Board includes a number of requirements and recommendations impacting employers throughout the Commonwealth. In particular, before returning employees to the workplace or opening to the public, businesses will be expected to:
- Bring the workplace into compliance with a set of mandatory safety standards relating to social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing/operations, and cleaning/disinfecting. This includes, for example, mandatory use of masks for all employees, signage to encourage social distancing, the provision of supplies for handwashing and cleaning, regular sanitization of high-touch areas, and training for employees regarding social distancing and hygiene protocols;
- Self-certify the implementation of these safety standards by maintaining (but not filing with the state) a “COVID-19 Control Plan,” at least as detailed as a template supplied by the state;
- Post a “Compliance Attestation” visible to employees and visitors stating a commitment to meeting the safety standards;
- Post “Employer” and “Worker” posters describing the safety standards; and
- Comply with applicable sector-specific protocols, such as those designed for office spaces and manufacturing.
Hospitals and community health centers that attest to meeting applicable public health and safety standards may resume high-priority preventative services (pediatric care, immunizations, and chronic disease care for high-risk patients) and urgent procedures that cannot be delivered remotely and would lead to high risk or significant worsening of the patient’s condition if deferred. Other healthcare providers may resume care for these types of services on May 25, 2020.
Once in compliance with heightened safety standards, which include a limitation on the number of employees permitted in the workplace at a time, office spaces outside Boston may resume onsite operations on May 25, 2020; Boston businesses may resume one week later, on June 1, 2020. Nevertheless, the Governor’s Office strongly encourages the continued use of remote work wherever feasible to limit the transmission of the virus, with “priority consideration” to be given to high-risk populations for workplace accommodations. Present sector-specific requirements for office spaces include limiting the occupancy of the workplace to no more than 25% of (a) the maximum occupancy level specified in any certificate of occupancy; or (b) the typical occupancy of the business as of March 1, 2020, unless the business can demonstrate that compliance with this standard would jeopardize public health and safety or interfere with the delivery of critical services. Employers are encouraged to stagger shifts and break times to minimize the number of people in one place.
Other industries due to reopen with limitations on May 25, 2020 as part of Phase 1 include laboratories, hair salons/barber shops, car washes, pet grooming, drive-in movies, libraries (curbside only) and retail (curbside or remote-fulfillment only).
Each of the four phases of the reopening plan is anticipated to last at least three weeks, subject to adjustment or return to an earlier phase based on public health data trends.
Recognizing the increased demand for personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies created by new safety standards, the state has established a portal to connect businesses to suppliers.
We hope you, your families, and your workers are well. If you have any questions about your obligations as you prepare to re-open, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Archstone attorney.