Business owners are facing tough decisions as they attempt to safely reopen their businesses to employees and consumers during the pandemic. The workplace as we knew it is on hold as the threat of COVID-19 is still very present. Many businesses have begun reopening in stages and are implementing new strategies to ensure the safety of employees and consumers. However, as you work to reopen, continue to monitor the CDC’s guidelines for business owners. In particular, please check out the “Workplace Decision Tool” on the CDC website featuring various questions which should all be able to be answered “Yes” in order to safely reopen. It is important for business owners to be familiar with these recommendations both because they may help ensure the health and safety of everyone in the workplace and because the CDC guidelines will most likely be referenced as the standard of practice in any future claim for business liability by either customers or employees. The following are some of the suggestions in the guidelines posted on cdc.gov (May 7, 2020). If you decide that you cannot meet a suggestion, document that you considered the guideline and why you decided it would not work for your business and what other steps you are taking instead to mitigate risk.
Employees at High Risk
- Increased safety measures should be taken to protect employees at a higher risk
- Minimize the at risk employees’ interaction with clients and other employees
- Consider telework options for high risk employees
- Have a strategy in place if an employee gets sick
- Create an ongoing system to monitor signs and symptoms of COVID-19
In Person Interaction
1. Reopen only if your business can ensure social distancing for all employees and clients and reopen in stages to ensure you are prepared and to limit exposure as you adjust to the new normal in your workspace.
2. Enhance space between employees. Consider scheduling employees working beside each other on different shifts.
3. Change the layout of your office or consider different options for your office space. For example, consider removing lobby furniture.
4. Designate a staff member who can respond to COVID-19 questions and concerns and notify your staff who they should contact with concerns.
5. Ensure that your business has adequate single use supplies such as hand towels and utensils.
6. Promote healthy hygiene practices by encouraging employees to wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and wear a face covering.
7. Cancel all group events where social distancing of at least 6 ft cannot be maintained for all in attendance.
8. Make sure your business has a clean water system after a prolonged closure to minimize the risk of diseases associated with water such as Legionnaires’ disease.
9. Provide training for employees on health safety protocol.
10. Consider using touchless payment systems.
Options for Commuting
- Consider telework options for employees living further away or using public transportation to get to work
- Change shift hours to less busy time for employees utilizing public transportation
- Encourage employees to ride alone to and from work and during lunch breaks
Reporting of New Cases
Prepare to close for a few days if an employee or client tests positive for COVID-19 and resume telework operations longer if there is an increase of positive cases in the local area. Promoting a safe and healthy work environment is essential to operating a successful business both during and following the pandemic. While business owners should implement strategies that make sense for their employees and customers, they need to go through a return to work planning process that includes reviewing the CDC guidelines as they change and evolve over the summer.