This week we started unlocking our office doors for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown. I watched through my window as masked individuals ascended the three steps and simply opened the door without knocking. It felt odd. I pondered how we all take the first steps to face this “new normal” — to move forward with reopening. There are many questions that need answering. Much of this is common sense, but let’s review best practices.
When should we consider reopening?
We should consider reopening when applicable state and local orders allow. There are also other issues to be considered; are you ready to protect your employees who are at higher risk for serious illness?
Are recommended health and safety actions in place?
Promote healthy hygiene practices such as hand washing and employees wearing a cloth face covering, as recommended and when appropriate.
Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation.
Encourage social distancing and enhance spacing between employees, including through physical barriers, changing the layout of workspaces, encouraging working remotely, closing or limiting access to communal spaces, staggering shifts and breaks, and limiting large events, when and where feasible.
Train all employees on health and safety protocols.
Is ongoing monitoring in place?
Ensure that if your employees are sick, they stay home. If you have no sick leave policy, implement one that is flexible so that conscientious workers will not worry about their sick days or taking time off from work.
Have a plan in place for if an employee gets sick: what will happen at work? Be transparent with the plan so that other employees know what to expect and will buy into the plan.
Be ready to work with local health authorities if there is a spike in cases within the local area.
Remember to post appropriate posters.
Healthy Hygiene Practices
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID 19. At this point in time, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, remember to cover all surfaces of your hands with the sanitizer and rub them together until they feel dry.
Be sure to have plenty of soap and water available for your employees and encourage them to wash their hands often.
There are posters available, online, to print and post by each sink with guidelines for proper handwashing techniques.
Avoid close contact and if possible, maintain 6 feet or two arm lengths from those working around you. Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill.
Some states mandate that you cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when around others. Check your local regulations to see if your place of business should wear face coverings.
Clean and disinfect (Guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, and homes.)
Determine what needs to be cleaned.
Areas unoccupied for 7 or more days need only routine cleaning. Maintain existing cleaning practices for outdoor areas. Determine how areas will be disinfected. Consider the type of surface and how often the surface is touched. Prioritize disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Keep in mind the availability of cleaning products and personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for cleaners and disinfectants.
Clean visibly dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfection.
Use an EPA-approved disinfectant against COVID-19 and read the label to make sure it meets your needs. Always follow the directions on the label. The label will include safety information and application instructions. Keep disinfectants out of the reach of children.
Maintain your cleaning and disinfecting routine.
Routinely disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily. If there are spaces your employees share, such as a break room, keep disinfecting wipes close so they can wipe down refrigerator handles, microwave buttons, and other frequently touched surfaces before and after each use.
For more detailed information, visit www.cdc.gov.
Heidi Shadel is a Cumberland business owner and graduate of Frostburg State University with a masters in business administration. She believes in small business and the power that it holds in America’s economy, especially having a passion for helping small businesses succeed within the tri-state region. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter at Heidi Shadel @heidiann73.