Wholesale and retail trade Workplace exposures

Washington L&I issues COVID-19 prevention guidelines for grocery store employers

Grocery store social distance sign
Photo: GabrielPevide/iStockphoto

Tumwater, WA — A new guidance document from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is intended to help grocery store employers protect workers from contracting – and potentially spreading – COVID-19.

Issued April 3, less than two weeks after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order, the document details effective physical distancing and handwashing plans, as well as ways to ensure workers don’t go to work sick.

Physical distancing strategies should include:

  • Limiting the numbers of customers inside the store.
  • Requiring workers to stay at least 6 feet away from co-workers and customers.
  • Using temporary 6-foot floor markings.
  • Informing customers of physical-distancing recommendations using large-print signs or electronic boards.
  • Designating workers to monitor and facilitate distancing in checkout lines.
  • Discontinuing free-sample stands, product demonstrations or self-serve foods.

To promote effective handwashing protocol among employees:

  • Install hand-sanitizer stations near entrances and key locations.
  • Make sure workers know how to wash their hands correctly and why it’s important to do so for at least 20 seconds.
  • Require frequent handwashing, especially when arriving at work and after eating, taking breaks, using tobacco products or handling money.
  • Ensure gloves are worn when retrieving carts, handling money, cleaning, using the same cash register or keypad as co-workers, or maintaining food safety.
  • Set up a schedule to ensure regular stocking of handwashing supplies and trash removal.

Employers should familiarize themselves with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, coughing and shortness of breath), monitor workers for signs of illness and require sick workers to stay home.


The document includes more than a dozen coronavirus transmission prevention strategies in regard to workplace hazard education, checkout stands and counters, stocking, and surface cleaning.

Washington L&I reminds employers that taking any adverse action against workers, such as threatening or firing them for exercising their safety and health rights or raising concerns, is against the law.

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