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An Employer’s Guide to Safely Resuming Work After the Pandemic Closures

May 20, 2020 4:35 PM | Anonymous

Reposted from Pinnacol Assurance

Colorado businesses are beginning the gradual transition from pandemic-induced closings to reentry mode. 

While every business must make changes to reopen safely, there’s no single approach that will work for everyone. Employers must stay flexible and focused. 

“This will be a continuous improvement process — not something where you set up your plan, open your doors and you’re ready to go,”says Jon Vonder Haar, safety consultant at Pinnacol. “It will be constantly evolving. Guidance may change based on the information coming in.” 

To help you prepare, we have put together tips for creating your reentry strategy, broken into four critical areas.                      

‍Who will the reopening impact? 

Knowing who can report to work is critical to operations planning. Many workplaces can have only half of employees present under the Governor’s Safer at Home” order.

Start by identifying vulnerable populations who remain under the stay-at-home order, such as workers overage 65 or those who have diabetes or heart conditions. You cannot compel these employees to return to on-site work, and you must continue to provide accommodations for them to work from home

You should have the right equipment and support available to enable remote workers, such as storing key information off-site and creating a communication protocol.

You should also offer flexible schedules or remote work opportunities to employees with eldercare or childcare responsibilities and to those who have a vulnerable individual in their household. 

Once you know who can and can’t return to the work site, make adjustments that accommodate changes in work, such as: 

  • Assigning temporary duties to employees as appropriate.
  • Making training considerations for any employee taking on new or different tasks. This can mean you provide training for temporary assignments or according to new workplace practices (e.g., hand hygiene and cleaning/disinfecting).
  • Training returning workers in things such as the proper way to wash their hands. You may need to document these trainings, per new statewide and countywide policies. 
  • Reviewing leave benefits for employees at home and on the work site.                                

Where will the reopening occur?

Make your building a healthy environment where your team can thrive.

Workplaces with more than 50 employees on-site must implement more strategies. Either develop a business policy or setup stations for temperature checks and symptom screenings, close your common areas, and implement mandatory cleaning and disinfection protocols. 

When will the reopening happen?      

Have a target date in mind to reopen. Consider the unique aspects of your operations while planning reopening. It could take hours or weeks to get ready. 

“So much depends on the scope of the business’s operation,” notes Tom Jensen, OHST and senior safety consultant at Pinnacol. “Are they a small retailer with 1,000 square feet of space where everyone does the same job, or are they a larger business with multiple operations and types of work, with vehicles, tools and equipment?” 

You may need to set new hours of operation if you lack the staff to maintain your old hours. Staggered starts and shifts can reduce the number of employees on-site at any given time. 

Reduce peak traffic in and out of the facility by setting off-peak office hours, such as after 5 p.m. or before 8 a.m. This is one way to offer scheduling flexibility to vulnerable workers or those with a vulnerable person in the household.

Eliminate shared workspaces if you can and assign equipment mindfully. The more people who use that one space or thing, the more you have to clean. 

How will you lead the reopening? 

Determining how to implement changes may be the most challenging aspect for many businesses. “Give different things a try and see what works. As mentioned earlier, this is a continuous improvement process,” Vonder Haar says. 

To promote the health and safety of employees, employers must follow measures required by the public health order. These activities include: ‍

Your coordinator can also study industry-specific guidance and requirements from the CDPHE, which cover: 

  • Critical and noncritical retail.
  • Field services.
  • Noncritical office-based businesses and offices.
  • Personal services.
  • Limited health care settings, such as medical, dental and veterinary.
  • Non-critical manufacturing

Your coordinator can also study industry-specific guidance and requirements from the CDPHE.

Considerations for customers and vendors

In addition to looking out for the safety of your employees, you also need to account for customers, patients or vendors who come through your doors. 

Eliminate direct contact when possible by using electronic correspondence, no-touch trash containers, gloves and masks, and contactless payment methods. Other precautions include: 

  • Setting up hand sanitizer dispensers at entrances.
  • Dedicating hours for vulnerable individuals only.
  • Screening visitors for symptoms before they enter.

“This whole process can be confusing and difficult,” Jensen says. Ask Pinnacol if you aren’t sure about something, such as whether a stated guidance is a requirement or a suggestion. 

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