Back to Business: How to Safely Re-Open

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been tough on the economy as companies across the country have been forced to close, reduce operations or change the way they do business. When you begin the process of re-opening your business, it's important to do it carefully, taking steps to protect your staff, customers and the community.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 are a good starting point. They provide important information for employers about implementing safe workplace practices and controls to help reduce the risk of exposure and spread of the virus.

Start with a plan

If your business doesn't already have one, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help provide guidance as you implement protective measures against COVID-19.

Your plan should take into account and address the amount of risk associated with individual workspaces and job tasks, such as the level of exposure to customers, other workers and the general public. The Society for Human Resource Management sample policy can serve as a guide in developing yours.

Stay up to date on guidelines from federal, state and local health agencies, and incorporate those recommendations into your plan as needed.

Safe work practices

Safe work practices include a mixture of resources and reminders designed to encourage workers to follow safety guidelines.

  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Make soap and water and hand-sanitizer readily available in the workplace.
  • Place signage encouraging proper hand hygiene at your workplace entrance, restrooms and other high-traffic areas.
  • Remind employees to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others whenever possible.
  • Discourage staff from using other worker's phones, desks and workplace tools and equipment.

Administrative controls

These are changes in policies or procedures designed to protect workers and minimize their exposure. They include::

  • Encouraging sick workers to stay at home
  • Establishing alternating days or extra shifts to minimize the number of employees in a facility
  • Routinely cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, keyboards, phones, handrails and doorknobs.
  • Reducing face-to-face contact among workers and customers by using virtual communication whenever possible
  • Providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors
  • Providing workers who need it with protective clothing and equipment — such as gloves and masks — and training on how to wear it and use it correctly

Engineering controls

These controls involve reducing the risk of exposure by isolating workers or improving the indoor environment. They may include:

  • Installing high-efficiency air filters
  • Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment
  • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards

See Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information.