New Jersey Sets Mandatory COVID-19 Health and Safety Standards Applicable to All Employers

Beginning November 5, 2020, all employers operating in New Jersey will be required to comply with a number of COVID-19-related mandatory health and safety standards.  With the signing of Executive Order 192 (EO192), Governor Phil Murphy consolidated a hodgepodge of requirements directed at specific industries (e.g., construction, manufacturing, retail) and guidance documents, and placed all New Jersey employers on notice, regardless of industry, that they will be required to institute and enforce COVID-19 safety protocols. 

The requirements set by EO192 incorporate much of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements/guidance, and New Jersey’s sector-specific executive orders.  Summarized, EO192 requires that:

  • all workers be screened prior to each shift;
  • all individuals present in the workplace maintain six feet of distancing to the maximum extent possible;
  • all employees be made aware of known workplace COVID-19 exposure;
  • all individuals entering the workplace wear face coverings, which must be provided by the employer at its expense;
  • sanitizing materials be provided by employers;
  • all employees be provided breaks to wash their hands with soap; and
  • all high-touch areas be routinely cleaned and disinfected.

To observers of CDC, OSHA, Governor Murphy’s prior executive orders, and requirements set by other states, most, if not all, of these requirements should not be surprising.

In addition to setting standards, EO192 also requires the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJ DOL), to establish training programs and create notices and informational materials to help employers lawfully navigate the executive order’s requirements.

Finally, EO192 creates an inter-agency enforcement program between the NJ DOL and the New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH).  In collaboration, the NJ DOL and NJ DOH are tasked with processing and investigating alleged violations of EO192.  Pursuant to EO192, the agencies are authorized to perform workplace inspections, interview witnesses, and issue subpoenas. 

Importantly, employers found in violation of EO192 can be subject to penalties.  The executive order provides that violators could face up to six months of imprisonment, and fines up to $1,000, in addition to closure of the business.

EO192 finally, and definitively, provides clear instructions to New Jersey employers on the state’s COVID-19 safety-related expectations (although Executive Order 107’s work-from-home “wherever practicable” direction still remains in effect).  As such, New Jersey employers should review the executive order carefully to determine what procedures to implement to ensure compliance, and regularly consult knowledgeable counsel in the event they are investigated by the state or have other questions.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.