Reopening Massachusetts Businesses: What to Know About Phase 1
On May 18, Governor Baker outlined the plan for reopening Massachusetts in a phased approach. Phase 1 permits for the limited reopening of certain businesses in the Commonwealth and will last for a minimum of three weeks. Businesses will be required to self-certify that they have complied with various safety standards and notice requirements. Detailed information concerning the phased reopening can be found here.
Below are key business sector components outlined in Phase 1. Additional information including guidance for outdoor spaces and health and human services in Phase 1 can be found on the state website.
Phase 1 Timeline
The Commonwealth will permit businesses in certain sectors to open with capacity limitations and staggered starts, as follows:
In order for any business to open in Phase 1, the business must:
Essential businesses that have already been operating, or that intend to open as part of Phase 1, must comply with the four requirements noted above by May 25, 2020.
In Massachusetts, the following mandatory standards apply to all workplaces that open in Phase 1. These are designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to employees and customers during the first phase of reopening. These standards are applicable to all sectors and industries.
Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces Opening in Phase 1
Staffing and Operations
Cleaning and Disinfecting
In addition to the universal, mandatory workplace safety standards for all industries and all businesses, the state has also issued sector-specific standards:
The new Massachusetts COVID-19 safety standards will be jointly enforced by local boards of health, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Department of Labor Standards.
Work from Home when Possible or Necessary
While the Commonwealth has issued the above guidelines and standards, Governor Baker has stressed that, where possible, businesses should permit employees to continue to work remotely. Additionally, businesses that are permitted to open in Phase 1 must evaluate making accommodations for employees who are 65+ and those with underlying health issues (for example, to allow them to work from home).
Dates and Timing
Businesses who operate within the City of Boston are advised to stay updated on the return to work guidelines for Boston-based businesses. Of note, Boston offices will not be permitted to open until at least June 1 (and, when they do open, they must also comply with the Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards and capacity restrictions noted above and in the sector-specific standards).
The Governor noted that each phase will last for a minimum of three weeks and, if necessary, will be extended if the requisite health metrics see increases after the reopening.
In addition to the information, standards, and guidelines provided by the Commonwealth, businesses should also consult the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID19 and the CDC Interim Guidelines for Businesses and Employers for Responding to COVID19 for additional guidelines. The OSHA guidance in particular provides key information for employers to consider as they prepare for reopening and implement measures to ensure a safe environment for employees.
Burns & Levinson will provide further updates on Phases 2, 3 and 4 as new information is made available.