The governors of some of the nation’s most populous states just announced they have begun to plan when it would be safe to reopen their economies in the wake of COVID-19.
“We have to start planning, restarting life,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference before the announcement. “This is not a light switch that we can just flick one day and everything goes back to normal. (But) we’re going to have to restart that economy. We’re going to have to restart a lot of systems that we shut down abruptly and we need to start to plan for that.”
A relief to hear, to be sure. But if you’re a business owner, how do you go about preparing for that moment when the all-clear is sounded, what steps should you take to ensure you’re ready, that your workforce is ready and that things go as smoothly as possible?
The fact is that, without a vaccine, the signal to reopen may be unclear at best and it’s unlikely we’ll all flood back to work at once. Certain industries will reopen before others and so a gradual return is more likely, one that allows us to maintain social distancing at first to help ascertain whether (or not) it’s safe to get back to life as we knew it.
A gradual return, not incidentally, would give employers time to require employees to fill out health assessments or get tested for COVID-19 before they walk back into the office and potentially make others ill. Remember, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said it’s legal for companies to ask employees if they have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a cough or shortness of breath, and take their temperature.
In any case, we all know the importance of hand-washing, use of sanitizer and no-touch receptacles for tissues. But what other protocols should business owners be thinking about? How best to prepare to ensure working conditions are safe for returning employees?
OSHA’s guidelines on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 offer a good starting point. Some of the very recommendations it made as the virus began its spread in the U.S. continue to make good sense now that we’re all thinking about getting back to the office or plant.
Occupational safety and health professionals know that the best way to control a hazard is to systematically remove it from the workplace, rather than relying on workers to reduce their exposure.
The most effective protection measures are referred to as engineering controls and administrative controls.
Engineering controls involve protecting employees from work-related hazards. For COVID-19, these controls include:
Administrative controls require action by the worker or employer. Typically, administrative controls are changes in work policy or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. Examples of administrative controls for COVID-19 that may make sense after your state or region lifts its stay-at-home order include:
Depending on your line of business, some of the above may be unnecessary. But as any risk manager can tell you, where there is an exposure, there should be a control. Need help in designing a program specific to your exposures? Reach out to me at my email or phone number below or use the form at the bottom of this page to connect with one of our risk management experts.
Spencer Mahoney is CCIG’s Executive Vice President. Reach him at Spencer.Mahoney@thinkccig.com or at 720-212-2051.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance, employee benefits and surety brokerage with clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.