Businesses and workplaces have an important role to play in helping slow the spread of COVID-19. Below are resources and current guidance to help keep your workers and customers safe.
The Washington State COVID-19 governor’s proclamations and state of emergency were rescinded on October 31, 2022. As a result, COVID-19 requirements for non-healthcare businesses and organizations are changing. In addition, the Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH) recently released updates to guidance for people who test positive for COVID-19 and people who have been exposed to COVID-19.
- COVID-19 is a recognized workplace hazard that employers must address. Employers and businesses are required to follow Washington State face covering orders, and Labor & Industries (L&I) requirements regarding COVID-19 in the workplace:
- WA DOH recommends that employers and businesses continue to support employees with using masks and other work practices that reduce exposure. Employees have a right to use masks, respirators, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves. Employers are required to allow workers to voluntarily wear masks and personal protective equipment as long as it does not create a safety or security issue (L&I Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19).
- Everyone is required to cooperate with public health authorities in the investigation of cases, suspected cases, outbreaks, and suspected outbreaks (WAC 246-101-425). This includes providing public health authorities with information about workers with COVID-19 if
- Washington Administrative Code (WAC 246-101) requires facilities conducting COVID-19 tests to report results to public health. This includes employers performing COVID-19 point-of-care testing or self-tests under a Medical Test Site/CLIA license. More information about reporting can be found on Reporting COVID-19 Test Results for Point-of-Care Testing Facilities. More information about Medical Test Site/CLIA licenses can be found here.
Safety & Accident Prevention Programs must include COVID Protocols
Every employer is required to create a written Accident Prevention Program (APP) to address the safety and health hazards found in their workplace. Businesses must now make sure that their safety plan (APP) includes COVID protocols.
Report COVID-19 cases to BFHD
Businesses and workplaces must notify Public Health within 24 hours if you suspect COVID-19 is spreading in your workplace or if there are two or more confirmed or suspected cases among your employees in a 14-day period. Please track cases reported by employees and submit a report if your facility meets that threshold. Public Health is currently only able to review reports from workplaces with 10+ employee COVID-19 positive cases identified within a 14-day period.
If an Employee has COVID-19
Further, to ensure occupational health and safety, employers should refer to and follow all applicable worksite requirements outlined by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).
When employers must report cases to Benton-Franklin Health District:
- Employers who operate in health care, veterinary medicine, and social service settings (e.g., senior living communities, homeless shelters, child care programs, and schools) must report cases to BFHD, while maintaining the confidentiality of anyone who is sick.
- Employers in non-health care settings should notify BFHD if they suspect COVID is spreading in their workplace or if there are two or more confirmed or suspected cases among their employees in a 14 day period.
If you are a non-healthcare or social services setting, but you think the virus may be spreading through your workplace, please contact BFHD.
If one of your employees has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and may have been in close contact with other employees while infectious, notify other employees they may have been exposed, but do not identify the person who is sick. They can get tested, monitor for symptoms, and quarantine at home if high-risk for exposure.
- Employers with more than 50 employees at a workplace or worksite are required to report to L&I within 24 hours of confirming 10 or more of their employees at the workplace or worksite in Washington have tested positive for COVID-19. Please see Reporting and Notification Requirements of HELSA and PPE Usage – Questions & Answers.
Cleaning and disinfection
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee has been in the facility, close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:
- Wait 24 hours from the last time the employee was in the facility before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential exposure for other employees. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility. Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
Cooperate with public health investigators
The state requires employers to cooperate with public health authorities investigating any cases, suspected cases, outbreaks or suspected outbreaks of COVID-19 (WAC 246-101-425). This includes providing public health authorities with information about workers with COVID-19 if requested
Maintain healthy business operations
- Keep track of cases in the workforce. and alert anyone who may have been exposed. Managers should help employees who have tested positive trace their contacts with coworkers and also prepare resources to assist workers who need guidance about how to isolate or quarantine at home. Businesses with more than 50 workers at the job site must also report outbreaks to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The privacy of employees’ protected health information must always be maintained.
- Establish sick leave policies and practices that are flexible and supportive, especially for workers 60 or older or those with underlying health conditions who are especially vulnerable to the virus. When sick employees stay home, it prevents the spread to others at work and customers. Businesses are required to provide paid sick leave to their employees (Paid Sick Leave). For more information, please see L&I’s Paid Sick Leave and Paid Sick Leave and Coronavirus Common Questions
- Do not require a doctor’s note from any employees with symptoms of COVID-19.
- Communicate supportive workplace policies, such as telework options, employee assistance programs, and alternatives to public-facing duties – in the preferred language of employees.
Farm and Farmworker Guidance
Emergency Rule Adoption – Temporary Worker Housing
The Department of Health (DOH) in conjunction with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) continue to respond to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. DOH and L&I adopted revisions to the initial emergency rule for temporary worker housing. DOH and L&I filed the initial emergency rules on May 13, 2020. As the pandemic continues to impact residents of Washington state and temporary worker housing occupants, and in response to the Governor’s guidance, DOH and L&I filed subsequent emergency rules through January 14, 2023 to protect occupants from COVID-19 hazards in licensed temporary worker housing.
These new, revised emergency rules took effect September 16, 2022.
Changes to this emergency rule include:
- Clearer definitions of “confirmed cases” as “cases testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 with a viral test,” and requiring isolation in accordance with DOH guidance or Local Health Officer rules.
- Changes to education regarding cleaning/disinfection of frequently touched items, and steps to improve ventilation.
This emergency rule continues the requirements under the previous emergency rules that operators:
- Educate occupants in a language or languages understood by the occupants on COVID-19;
- Provide occupants masks/face coverings;
- Ensure the ventilation requirements are met, including specific requirements for mechanical ventilation systems or that windows are open in buildings without mechanical ventilation;
- Identify and isolate occupants with suspect and confirmed positive cases;
- Ensure isolation requirements are met including medical monitoring by a licensed health care provider;
- Report to L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) within 24 hours whenever symptomatic or COVID-19 positive workers are placed in isolation; and
- Ensure any changes made to the revised temporary worker housing management plan are submitted to DOH.
- Mask/Face coverings are required in accordance with DOH guidelines or LNI Safety Rules.
The links below provide additional information about this rulemaking:
Temporary worker housing – L&I emergency rule for Temporary Worker Housing
Ag-Related Health Topics
Working In Extreme Heat
Other Resources (archive)
Employer Testing Guidance (DOH & BFHD)
The COVID-19 Safety Plan Template is a basic tool to assist businesses in creating their plans to reopen as allowed by the governor’s orders:
If you are a business, or worker with inquires you can use this form to ask Washington State for guidance: COVID-19 Business and Worker Inquiries
L&I has issued coronavirus workplace safety guidance for numerous industries including agriculture, grocery workers, janitorial workers, and construction – Division of Occupational Safety and Health coronavirus webpage
There are additional materials available on BFHD Posters and Graphics page