May marks the third month of 2020 when extreme measures have been in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most businesses have been operating remotely – or even closed – for weeks, if not months, as we collectively came together and followed government orders to stay home and flatten the curve. Across the country, some governors and mayors have begun what will undoubtedly be a slow process of opening up their states and cities in varying stages.
Regardless of the nature of your business, your industry, your location, or whether you are actively working toward reopening in the near future, there are plenty of elements to consider now that can help you limit your risk and raise your chances of keeping your employees, your patrons and your operations safe. Your plan will vary depending on the factors unique to your company and specific guidance provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but the basic guardrails are similar for everyone.
PROTECTING YOUR EMPLOYEES
As an employer, your workforce is your greatest asset, so mitigating the risks of your employees returning to work is a top priority. There are a number of workplace controls recommended by OSHA and the CDCto consider in an effort to protect your employees.
- Temperature Scans – Consider implementing thermal scanning upon entry to the workplace, both for employees and patrons.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – All employees need to wear masks, unless they are in isolated space greater than six feet apart from anyone else. Anytime they leave their workspace or travel, common areas masks are required.
- Spacing – The company should evaluate how to create workspace that maintains six foot spacing between each person.
- Work Shifts – In order to achieve spacing requirements additional work shifts may be required.
- Social Distancing – If you allow your work space to re-open you are going to need to constantly monitor social activity over breaks, lunch, etc.
Next, you need a protocol if an employee reports they are not feeling well or calls in sick. Here is the protocol C3 is following in these situations:
- Symptoms & Action – If an employee has a cough or shortness of breath and / or any two of the below symptoms, they should stay home.They should not be allowed to return to work until they receive a negative COVID -19 test and they have been fever-free for 72 hours.
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
Please refer to the CDC Guidelines for updates:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
- Communication – If an employee tests positive or is suspected of having Covid-19, everyone who may have been exposed should be
- Immediately notified of their potential exposure (without compromising the privacy of the sick employee. i.e. Avoid the use of identifying pronouns)
- Provided with the date that the employee who may be Covid-19 positive was last in the office
- Encouraged to get tested
Employers are always well-served to show empathy, and this period of time is no different. In addition to taking steps to protect your employees’ physical health, it is important to also support their mental health and demonstrate an understanding of the challenges they may face when it comes to returning to the workplace.
These fears and challenges may range from concerns about their personal safety to problems with securing childcare if their kid’s school or daycare remains closed. Some businesses offer employee resources to help manage these and other issues, including a care hotline or an Employee Assistance Program (learn more here). If you are unable to provide your own resources, sharing the availability of government resources with your employees is a good option (learn more here and here).
After reading all of these considerations, your excitement at the prospect of reopening may have shifted. Safely resuming operations while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing may seem like a daunting task, but organizations don’t have to make decisions on their own. It is advisable to seek the help and input of legal counsel and insurance professionals in assessing risk and determining what actions need to be taken to reopen smoothly. C3 Risk & Insurance Services is here with tools and resources to help our clients adapt to the new environment in which we all live and work.
Director of Risk Prevention