There are so many things that we cannot control right now. We are all living under the restriction of shelter in place orders by our state governor and our local public health officials. The only thing that we can be certain of is that this pandemic has created a new normal for all of us. As more businesses prepare to open again, we will still have to observe social distancing protocols. This may be the reality of our world for a long time yet.
Let’s use this time wisely, whether your business is considered essential now or you are preparing for repopulating the workplace in the (hopefully) near future. It may even be reasonable to anticipate some updated requirements from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in response to this pandemic and beyond. That said, let’s be proactive and prepare – create a safety plan, train your employees, and implement!
The first consideration should be for the health of your employees. Are there employees that can continue to work from home? Will you require employees to stay home if they feel ill? Will you conduct a symptom check of employees each day, including taking temperatures? Will you require employees to wear masks or other PPE? How often will breakrooms, bathrooms, other common areas be disinfected? What steps will be taken to ensure that employees can stay six feet away from each other? Where are the areas for handwashing or sanitization? How often will they be expected to use them?
Once the employees’ needs have been determined, the next consideration should be the health of the customer. Think about if you will need to limit the occupancy of your workplace to ensure adequate six-foot spacing between individuals. Perhaps you’re able to post an employee at the door to provide foot-traffic control or perhaps you will rely on signage. Customers will also want to know what measures are taken to disinfect common areas such as counters, a waiting area, or payment systems. Perhaps you can develop a way to accept pre-payments through an online system to prevent that point of contact. Placing tape on the floor to help customers determine how far to stand from one another to prevent crowding is another measure that many already use.
One factor all businesses should consider, regardless of how remote the possibility is, is a response to learning that an employee or a customer in recent contact with your business tests positive for COVID-19. Your plan should contain guidance on how to notify other employees and customers while protecting privacy, how to disinfect the workplace, and whether reporting to OSHA will be mandated.
One of the most important elements of any safety plan is training your employees. Give everyone the chance to ask questions and have input. Have them sign an acknowledgement that they have received the training. Place signage at important points of customer contact to ensure that they too are aware of your plan. Perhaps even use social media to get the word out to your customer base about the steps that your business is taking to protect everyone’s safety.
Finally, we realize that many business owners and leaders have already developed and implemented social distancing and other safety precautions in response to the pandemic. Employee training and customer outreach have already taken place. This is where we urge you to memorialize your plan into a written document. Something short and succinct is all that is needed to serve as a record. It will also serve as a training tool for future employees.
We all want the same thing – to be safe and well. With some planning and foresight, we can be while keeping our businesses successful, our workers working, and our economy strong.