By Lee Allphin, Employer Advantage Founder and Chairman of the Board
From devastating pandemic to enemy of the economy, COVID-19 has rapidly ravaged normalcy in the workplace. There are still many unknowns about the extensive measures necessary to properly reopen, which has employers struggling to create a plan to safely and successfully bring employees back to work.
We are sharing a checklist we have created and use to aid our clients in creating a customized safety policy and associated training for their organization to reopen their business. Employer Advantage will continue to monitor this developing situation and provide appropriate updates.
When considering reopening, the two questions below should be considered first. You should only consider reopening if you can answer “yes” to both questions.
- Are you in a community no longer requiring significant mitigation?
- Are protective measures in place for employees, especially those in higher risk categories (e.g. teleworking, tasks that minimize contact)?
If the answer to either of these is “no,” we recommend continuing current limited work or work-from-home procedures until you are advised by local authorities that your community is no longer under imminent threat, and measures can be established to protect those employees who are most vulnerable. If you are able to answer “yes” to both, the next step is to develop a thorough return-to-work plan with appropriate safety precautions.
1) Safety Planning
The overriding consideration for any employer is workplace safety. No other success in business will compensate for loss of employees through negligence in the workplace. Every business is unique. We recommend reviewing the “Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus” provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to help create your company-specific reopening safety plan. OSHA also offers industry-specific checklists to help implement your process.
Additionally, the following interim guidance is designed to assist organizations in restoring their daily Operations. This information is based on what is currently known about COVID-19, along with guidance from the CDC and OSHA.
2) Safety Actions
If you choose to allow employees back into your workplace, the following safety actions should be adopted across your company.
- Promote healthy hygiene practices by all employees (e.g. frequent hand washing and use of sanitizer if available).
- Intensify your normal cleaning and disinfecting routines.
- Avoid face to face meetings if possible. Instead use video calling, emails, or the phone whenever possible, even when in the same building.
- Limit employee gatherings to small groups.
- Keep meetings as short as possible. Find a room that will allow maximum amount of distance between personnel.
- Stagger break and lunch times to limit large gatherings.
- Consider canceling all non-essential travel and continue to encourage the use of alternative commuting and telework.
- Ensure seating and workstations are at least 6 feet apart from one another.
- Prohibit the use of shared items, tools and spaces. Avoid physical contact.
- Document your safety plan in writing and train all employees on the new safety changes.
- Limit visitors to the facility and control access to limited areas if allowed into the facility.
3) Monitoring Employees
Implement safeguards to monitor the ongoing health of your employees.
- Encourage or require all employees who are sick to stay home.
- Establish routine, daily employee health checks (e.g. temperature check before entering work). EEOC guidance on the confidential collection and documentation of health checks can be found here.
- Monitor absenteeism and have flexible time off policies.
4) The Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency FMLEA programs are in effect until December 31, 2020.
- Have an action plan established if an employee gets COVID-19.
- Create and test emergency communications for employees.
- Monitor ongoing news and communications from state and local health authorities. If the status of your state or local area changes, you should be prepared to shut down immediately.
5) Preparing the Workplace for Reopening
Prior to reopening, you will need to prepare the physical workspace for employees, customers and visitors to reenter. The following guidance is from the CDC and should be reviewed when implementing cleaning procedures at your facilities after stay-at-home orders are lifted.
If your indoor facility has been unoccupied within the last seven days, the CDC recommends normal, routine cleaning of these areas. For areas that have been occupied within the last seven days, the CDC recommends that frequently touched surfaces and objects made of hard and non-porous materials (glass, metal, or plastic) be cleaned and disinfected more frequently. Those frequently touched areas made of soft and porous materials (e.g. carpet, rugs, seat cushions) should be cleaned thoroughly or laundered. Removal of soft and porous materials in traffic areas would be recommended if possible. All other surfaces and objects that are not frequently touched should be cleaned on a routine basis.
Outdoor areas should maintain existing cleaning practices. However, if no cleaning practices currently exist, a cleaning routine should be established. Viruses are more likely to be killed by warmer temperatures and sunlight. Provide remote shopping alternatives for customers, including click-and-collect, delivery, pick-up, and shop-by-phone, to limit customers in the establishment. Set up designated pick-up areas. Control the flow of traffic into the establishment by ensuring that maximum capacity plans are adjusted and managed at the front door.
6) Maintaining Vigilance
Once you open your doors and welcome employees and others back into your facility, your work is not completed. All routine cleaning and disinfection procedures should continue with the frequency that you have established in order to reduce the potential for exposure. Continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions in your local area. If necessary, be prepared to close your facility if another outbreak occurs.
Links to other helpful articles for your business regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic:
About Employer Advantage
A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of HR, payroll, health and benefits, workplace safety, and more, enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 400 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (C-PEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com