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Safety Standards and Checklist: Office Spaces

Reopening Phase IV mandatory safety standards, recommended best practices and a checklist for office spaces. EFFECTIVE: March 22, 2021

These sector specific COVID-19 workplace safety standards for Office Spaces are issued to provide businesses and other organizations operating within general use office spaces and workers in these office spaces with instructions to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. Employers are encouraged to have workers continue to telework if feasible.

These standards are minimum requirements only and are not exclusive or exhaustive. The public health data and matrix for disease prevention upon which these guidelines are based can and does change frequently, and the operator of the office space is accountable for adhering to all local, state and federal requirements. The operator of the office space is also responsible for staying abreast of any updates to these requirements.

Violation of these standards may result in civil fines of up to $500 per violation; provided that each individual instance of non-compliance and each day of a continuing violation may be fined as a separate violation. Each person present over any capacity limit specified below may likewise be fined as a separate violation.

Standards for Responsible Office Spaces in Massachusetts

No activity in office spaces can occur without meeting the following sector specific COVID-19 workplace safety standards. These standards apply to all businesses and other organizations operating in general use office space until rescinded or amended by the State.

The following workplace specific safety standards are organized around four distinct categories covering Social Distancing, Hygiene Protocols, Staffing and Operations, and Cleaning and Disinfecting.

Table of Contents

Key Documents for Reopening

Linked below are three important documents for Office Spaces:

  1. Workplace Safety Standards - Complete and official sector-specific standards for reopening office spaces (all workplaces must also comply with the Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces)
  2. Protocol Summary - User friendly summary of the standards and best practices
  3. Checklist - Printable tool to help businesses perform the required self-certification for opening and ensure compliance with the sector-specific standards 

Social Distancing

  • Workers and visitors must wear face coverings at all times, except where unsafe due to medical condition or disability or except when in their own individual workspace and alone
  • Face coverings are required in all common areas and in meeting rooms, even when 6 feet of distance can be maintained
  • Each office must monitor customer and worker entries and exits and limit occupancy at all times to the greater of the following:
    • 50% of the building’s maximum permitted occupancy as documented in its occupancy permit on record with the municipal building department or other municipal record holder
    • Buildings for which no permitted occupancy limitation is on record may allow 10 persons per 1,000 square feet of accessible space
    • In any case, no enclosed space within the facility may exceed occupancy of 10 persons per 1,000 square feet
  • Businesses and other organizations may exceed this maximum occupancy level based on a demonstrated need for relief based on public health or public safety considerations or where strict compliance may interfere with the continued delivery of critical services
  • Ensure separation of 6 feet or more between individuals unless this creates a safety hazard due to the nature of the work or the configuration of the workspace
    • Close or reconfigure worker common spaces and high density areas where workers are likely to congregate to allow 6 feet of physical distancing. Employers are encouraged to close break rooms or limit their use. Work stations should be redesigned to ensure physical distancing (e.g., separate tables, use distance markers to assure spacing)
    • Cafeterias must practice physical distancing and appropriate hygiene measures and may allow indoor and /or outdoor seating according to Restaurant guidance
    • Physical partitions separating workstations must be installed for areas that cannot be spaced out. Physical partitions must be at least 6 feet in height
    • Establish directional hallways and passageways for foot traffic if possible, to minimize contact. Post clearly visible signage regarding these policies
    • Limit visitors where feasible, and avoid congregation in common areas (e.g., lobbies)
    • Mark rooms and hallways to indicate 6 feet separation
  • Designate assigned working areas (e.g., floor, building) to individuals where possible to limit movement throughout the facility and limit contact between workers
  • Stagger work schedules and improve ventilation for enclosed spaces where possible (e.g., open doors and windows)
  • Limit meeting sizes, ensure 6 feet of social distancing, and encourage remote participation
  • Stagger lunch and break times, regulating maximum number of people in one place and ensuring at least 6 feet of physical distancing
  • Minimize the use of confined spaces (e.g., elevators, control rooms, vehicles) by more than one individual at a time; all workers in such spaces at the same time are required to wear face coverings

Hygiene Protocols


  • Ensure access to handwashing facilities on site, including soap and running water, wherever possible and encourage frequent handwashing; alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol may be used as an alternative
  • Supply workers at workplace location with adequate cleaning products (e.g., sanitizer, disinfecting wipes)
  • Post visible signage throughout the site to remind workers of the hygiene and safety protocols
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol should be made available at entrances and throughout floor areas for workers
  • Require regular and not less than daily cleaning and sanitation of all high-touch areas such as workstations, door handles, and restrooms
  • Avoid sharing office materials / equipment or disinfect equipment between use (e.g., telephones, fax machines)

Staffing and Operations

  • Provide training to workers on up-to-date safety information and precautions including hygiene and other measures aimed at reducing disease transmission, including:
    • Social distancing, hand-washing, proper use of face coverings
    • Self-screening at home, including temperature and symptom checks
    • Importance of not coming to work if ill
    • When to seek medical attention if symptoms become severe
    • Which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting and suffering from a severe case of the virus
  • Facilities must screen workers at each shift by ensuring the following:
    • Worker is not experiencing any symptoms such as fever (100.0 and above) or chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, headache, muscle/body aches, runny nose/congestion, new loss of taste or smell, or nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
    • Worker has not had “close contact” with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19. “Close contact” means living in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, caring for a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, being within 6 feet of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, or coming in direct contact with secretions (e.g., sharing utensils, being coughed on) from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was symptomatic
    • Worker has not been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by their doctor or a local public health official
    • Workers who fail to meet the above criteria must be sent home
  • Adjust workplace hours and shifts (leverage working teams with different schedules or staggered arrival / departure) to minimize contact across workers and reduce congestion at entry points
  • Maintain a log of workers and customers to support contact tracing (name, date, time, contact information) if needed
  • Employers are encouraged to have workers continue to telework if feasible; external meetings should be remote to reduce density in the office
  • Employers should establish adjusted workplace hours and shifts for workers (if working in- person, leverage working teams with different schedules or staggered arrival / departure) to minimize contact across workers and reduce congestion at entry points
  • Limit visitors and service providers on site; shipping and deliveries should be completed in designated areas
  • Workers must stay home if feeling ill
  • Workers who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control (e.g., due to age or underlying conditions) are encouraged to stay home or arrange an alternate work assignment
  • Workers are strongly encouraged to self-identify symptoms or any close contact to a known or suspected COVID-19 case to the employer
  • Encourage workers who test positive for COVID-19 to disclose to the workplace employer for purposes of cleaning / disinfecting and contact tracing. If the employer is notified of a positive case at the workplace, the employer must immediately notify the local Board of Health (LBOH) in the city or town where the workplace is located. Employers must assist the LBOH with contact tracing efforts, including advising likely contacts to isolate and self-quarantine. Testing of other workers may be recommended consistent with guidance and / or at the request of the LBOH Post notice to workers and customers of important health information and relevant safety measures as outlined in the Commonwealth’s Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplace
  • Offices should maintain operating hours that allow for on-going off-hour sanitation and cleaning
  • Allow water fountains to be used as refill stations only, provided that social distancing can be maintained. Workers should bring their own water bottles
  • Additional on-site amenities and services may only open and operate when those amenities or services would otherwise be authorized to operate under the Commonwealth’s Phased Reopening Plan and then must adhere to all sector-specific safety protocols, available on the Reopening Plan website, applicable to the amenity or service. Examples include:
    • Cafeterias: Must follow the latest restaurant guidance

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Clean commonly touched surfaces in restrooms (e.g., toilet seats, doorknobs, stall handles, sinks, paper towel dispensers, soap dispensers) frequently and in accordance with CDC guidelines
  • Conduct frequent cleaning and disinfection of site (at least daily and more frequently if feasible)
  • Keep cleaning logs that include date, time, and scope of cleaning
  • Conduct frequent disinfecting of heavy transit areas and high-touch surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, elevator buttons, staircases, vending machine, bathrooms)
  • Clean shared spaces (e.g., conference rooms) between use and supply cleaning products (e.g., sanitizer, disinfecting wipes)
  • In event of a positive case, follow current CDC guidance on cleaning and disinfecting areas when someone has a COVID-19 diagnosis
  • Open windows and doors to increase airflow where possible
Last updated: March 18, 2021