Considering reopening to employees, the public, or both during the pandemic? You’ll need to make sure that your reopening plan is consistent with applicable local and state orders, and that you are ready to protect anyone in your facility – especially those at higher risk – from contracting the virus.
As of June, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not stepped in to issue rules for employers or to clarify their responsibilities for keeping employees safe. Until this occurs, employers are on their own to determine best practices in opening safely. Here are some of the most important steps you should take as part of your reopening plan:
- Deter people who may be infected from entering: Post signs near the entrance of your business, preferably where they can be read outside that advise people not to enter if they have any any COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has been infected.
- Clean and disinfect several times each day: Using gloves, masks, and CDC-recommended disinfectants, clean doorknobs, countertops, tables, desks, keyboards, elevator buttons, light switches, handles, and any other frequently touched surfaces.
- Maintain sanitized and safe bathrooms: Bathrooms are one of the places where the virus transmits most easily. Make communal restrooms into one-person bathrooms, or at the very least, install lids on the toilets. No amount of handwashing will be sufficient to overcome virus carried in mist from flushing. Use signage outside of the bathrooms that promotes an occupancy of one and that keeps people in line socially distanced, at least six feet apart. Of course, keep soap dispensers full, with signage requesting that employees wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds, front and back. Have paper towels or napkins in a dispenser near the door so that employees can get out without touching the handle. Have the bathrooms regularly disinfected and sanitized, several times each day.
- Have employees wear masks or cloth face coverings: Unless employees are inside their own closed office or work spaces, encourage or mandate the use of masks to protect others from inhaling the virus. Communicate the moral obligation each employee has to others to keep from becoming a vector in the transmission of the virus, especially because COVID-19 has spread so quickly through asymptomatic carriers.
- Encourage frequent handwashing: Communicate to employees and visitors through written, digital, and oral communications the importance of frequent handwashing. Employees should wash their hands when they get to work, before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing, before and after touching their faces, after they interact with the public, and after they visit the bathroom.
- Mandate social distancing: Employees must always maintain a space between them of at least six feet. Consider using physical barriers, limiting numbers of seats in confined areas, changing the layout of workspaces, encouraging telework, limiting access to communal spaces, staggering shifts and breaks, and not having large meetings or gatherings. You may also consider tape on the floor to direct the flow of traffic to limit opportunities for people to accidentally get too close in passing.
Finally, leaders should set a good example for all employees and visitors. Get tested yourself so that you can encourage others to get tested, both for the virus and antibodies. Wear a mask, practice safe distancing, and correct others tactfully if they inadvertently put others in harm’s way.
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