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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to have an unprecedented effect on daily life, states are beginning to lift stay-at-home orders, and businesses are planning to reopen. But, there’s a lot for organizations to consider before safely reopening the doors. When preparing to reopen a business, consider when to reopen, the risks associated, and workplace safety.

Determining When to Reopen

Be sure to review guidance from state and local governments as well as seek the expertise of legal, insurance, and other professionals.

  • Review guidance from state and local governments— It’s critical to understand and review all relevant state and local orders to determine if and when your business is allowed to reopen.
  • Understand the risks— Conduct a risk assessment. It’s important to review guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state and local agencies, industry associations as well as your local health department.


Conducting a Risk Assessment

When analyzing your risks, consider potential financial losses, compliance requirements, employee safety, business disruptions, harm to reputation, and other consequences. While the complexity of risk assessments will differ from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:

  • Identifying the hazards— Consider your exposures. Perform a walk through of the premises. Identify high-risk areas (e.g., break rooms and other areas where people may congregate). Audit work duties and take necessary precautions for high-risk tasks. 
  • Decide who may be harmed and how— What populations of your workforce are exposed to COVID-19 risks? Do you have high-risk employees (e.g., staff members who meet with customers or individuals with preexisting medical conditions)?
  • Assessing risks— Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyze them to determine their potential consequences. 
  • Controlling risks— Understand the threats to your business and consider ways to address them, including:
    • Risk avoidance— Risk avoidance is when a business eliminates certain hazards, activities, and exposures from their operations altogether.
    • Risk control— Risk control involves preventive action.
    • Risk transfer— Risk transfer is when a business transfers its exposures to a third party.
  • Monitoring the results— Risk management is an evolving, continuous process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to watch and reassess its effectiveness. COVID-19 risks facing your business can change over time.


Maintaining Workplace Safety Using OSHA and CDC Guidance

Once you conduct a risk assessment, you will need to act to control COVID-19 risks. The corrective steps that organizations take to address those risks will vary by business and industry. There are many OSHA and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) workplace controls to consider if your risk assessment determines that COVID-19 poses a threat to your employees or customers. You could:

  • Implement administrative controls— A change in work policies or procedures that reduce or minimize an individual’s exposure to a hazard. 
  • Utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)— Equipment worn by individuals to reduce exposure to a hazard. Provide necessary training whenever supplying new equipment to employees.
  • Consider engineering controls— Removing hazardous conditions by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. For example, consider:
    • Installing high-efficiency air filters
    • Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment
    • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards
  • Be adaptable— You should be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations. 
  • Create a dialogue with vendors and partners— Talk with business partners about your response plans. 
  • Encourage social distancing— Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Best practices for businesses can include:
    • Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
    • Instructing workers to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people
    • Hosting meetings virtually when possible
    • Limiting the number of people on the jobs site to essential personnel only
    • Encouraging or requiring staff to work from home when possible
    • Discouraging people from shaking hands
  • Manage the different risk levels of their employees— It’s important to be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, consider the unique impact on each employee. 
  • Separate sick employees— Employees who appear to have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough or shortness of breath) should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors, and sent home. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure and Reporting Cases of COVID-19
  • Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene— Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVD-19; this can involve:
    • Providing tissues, no-touch disposal receptacles, soap and water 
    • Providing hand sanitizers in multiple locations
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection— Businesses should regularly sanitize their facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some best practices include:
      • Cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.
      • Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
      • Providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.


Continued Safety

To reopen a business and resume operations following the pandemic may seem like a daunting task, businesses don’t have to go it alone. Contact Dempsey & Siders Insurance Agency today.

For more detail to reopen a business, please read: Risk Insights – Reopening Your Business

This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.