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OSHA Targets Restaurant Industries for COVID-19 Inspections

Restaurants should be on higher alert for potential inspections from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in light of the agency’s recent Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19 and National Emphasis Program — Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In contrast from the past year during which OSHA focused its resources on the healthcare industries, OSHA issued detailed guidance on conducting COVID-19 inspections with the restaurant industry — both full-service and limited-service — specifically on OSHA’s target list to conduct programmed inspections. This means OSHA can show up unannounced and declare it will be conducting a COVID-19 inspection of a restaurant if that establishment is on the target list generated by the agency.

Restaurants should proactively prepare for on-site OSHA inspections based on this updated guidance and renewed interest on the industry by doing the following:

  • Review all recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illness practices on the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Log.

  • Review the establishment’s COVID-19 Risk Assessment and update any COVID-19 prevention policies.

  • Review Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) compliance, policies, and documentation of the same.

  • Continue to monitor employee exposures and track the same.

  • Continue to train and re-train employees on COVID-19 sanitation, PPE, and other related protocols and document this training.

  • Ensure sanitation protocols are compliant with local, state, and federal standards. Be sure to confirm sanitation logs are completed timely and accurately.

  • Encourage employees to raise concerns internally so any potential issues can be promptly addressed before any OSHA site visit or to preempt any complaints to OSHA. Consider implementing anonymous hotlines for employees to raise concerns.

  • In addition to federal OSHA guidance, be sure to review any state safety and health guidance. Employers in some states, like CaliforniaMichiganOregon, and Virginia, are already subject to COVID-19 rules under occupational safety and health state plans. Employers should continue to consult state and local law for safety guidelines.

With many full-service restaurants returning to indoor dining, along with increased capacity limits and other state-mandated restrictions being lifted, restaurants may see an increased number of patrons and employees returning to the workforce. While such changes are much-needed in an industry hit hard by the pandemic, restaurants should be on heightened alert to ensure COVID-19 workplace safety protocols are in place. The longer the pandemic continues, the easier it is to become complacent. OSHA’s focus on the industry reminds restaurant employers of the need to renew efforts to ensure all practices and documentation are up to date, should OSHA conduct a routine inspection or in case of investigation based on complaints.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 124

About this Author

Felice B. Ekelman, Jackson Lewis, compensation disputes lawyer, enforcement of restrictive covenants attorney

Felice B. Ekelman is a Principal in the New York City, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Since joining Jackson Lewis in 1985, she has been engaged exclusively in the practice of labor and employment law on behalf of management.

Ms. Ekelman has represented employers in federal and state courts, and before the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, and other federal, state and city administrative agencies. Her litigation experience...

Melanie L. Paul Trial Attorney Jackson Lewis Atlanta, GA
Of Counsel

Melanie L. Paul is Of Counsel in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Jackson Lewis P.C.  Her practice focuses on occupational safety and health and wage and hour issues.  Ms. Paul’s clients benefit from her unique inside experience as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for more than a decade. 

During Ms. Paul’s time with the DOL, she regularly appeared at hearings and trials before federal administrative tribunals and federal district courts throughout the southeastern United States in matters of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) law, Mine...


Amanda Simpson is an Associate in the Orlando, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Ms. Simpson is part of the firm’s class action practice group. Since joining Jackson Lewis P.C., Ms. Simpson has handled a number of class and collective actions including wage and hour claims alleging claims of misclassification. Ms. Simpson has also worked with clients on Department of Labor audits as well as voluntary self-audits as to exemption status of hundreds of positions.

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Sarah R. Skubas is an Associate in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice is focused on employment litigation, preventive counseling and labor relations.

Ms. Skubas defends employers against claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations and state and federal FMLA violations. She also assists employers in providing preventive counseling, preparing employee handbooks and policies and procedures, advising on such personnel matters as hiring and firing, performance management, internal investigations and...