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What administrative controls help grocers deal with the Coronavirus?

By Henry Skjerven | Last updated: February 22, 2021
Key Takeaways

Administrative controls are important but need to be supplemented with engineering controls and proper PPE.

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Let's start by establishing a common understanding of what administrative controls are.

The 13th edition of the National Safety Council (NSC) text on Administration and Programs states defines administrative controls as hazard control measures that encompass: "personnel, management, monitoring, limiting worker exposure, measuring performance, training and education, housekeeping and maintenance, purchasing."

It's also important to understand that when dealing with COVID-19 as a workplace hazard, engineering controls and PPE will also be required.


In the case of COVID-19, the different categories of administrative controls listed by the NSC will include the following.

  • Personnel. This speaks to staff, at all levels, and their jobs, tasks, roles, and responsibilities. Basically, COVID-19 programs, procedures, and practices should be added to job documents or published all together for use in the business.
  • Monitoring. Again, this basically means the administrative processes you use to check on your COVID-19 control system. Think about adding your COVID-19 program into your regular inspection process.
  • Limiting worker exposure. For groceries, this includes how staff enter and leave store (timing), active COVID-19 screening for staff, and limiting staff interactions with each other and customers.
  • Measuring performance. Again, exactly the same way you regularly do performance measurements, but including COVID-19. Performance measurement looks at how well staff do their jobs, communicate, provide corrective coaching, and lead.
  • Training and education (T&E). With this virus, there are two main administrative themes. First, content and delivery of the COVID-19 program, including updates and safety talks. Second, how will staff be tested in terms of the T&E program, with both practical and written performance testing and records to demonstrate this.
  • Housekeeping and maintenance. These programs are absolutely critical with COVID-19, especially cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfection, as well as making sure all equipment is maintained and working well. Your HVAC system is another maintenance area that needs special attention.
  • Purchasing. What you buy and use for your COVID-19 program needs to meet and or exceed health recommendations from authorities. This includes proper PPE, masks, face shields, barriers, sanitizer with proper contents, and so on.

(Learn more about Managing the Coronavirus by Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sterilizing the Workplace)

A quick review of the available direction and guidance from government bodies, associations, or occupational health and safety authorities will help you design and implement your COVID-19 control program.

Employers and managers in the US can consult this document from Cal/OSHA. Those based in Canada can check out this one from the Retail Council of Canada.

These are great resources for figuring out how to complete your store's due diligence for worker safety during this pandemic, including not only administrative controls but also engineering controls and PPE.

Now, safety pros have to take these concepts into the workers’ world. Understanding that for groceries, all safety controls will have to be looked at and the appropriate methods selected and applied.

Regardless of vaccination programs, herd immunity, or the coming summer season, COVID-19 and the hazard controls that will prevent its spread are the new normal and they should be implemented for the long term.

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Written by Henry Skjerven

Mr. Skjerven has consulted professionally for over 27 years, with extensive Canadian experience, literally from coast to coast but with a home base in Western Canada. His experience ranges from marketing, adult education, and heavy transportation (rail) to municipal public works, fleet and transportation, oil and gas construction in the tar sands, emergency response (Fire and Ambulance), Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Security, as well as human resources and software systems, including enterprise style projects.

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