The COVID 19 Facility Reopening Guide

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As the country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic and begins planning for the return to the workplace,  there are several considerations employers and employees need to account for prior to reopening. While details on any expected regulations have been difficult to obtain, it can be expected that individual states will begin providing guidance or even regulations for a safe and healthy return to the workplace. 

A relief to hear, to be sure. But if you’re a business owner, how do you go about preparing for that moment when the all-clear is sounded, what steps should you take to ensure you’re ready, that your workforce is ready and that things go as smoothly as possible?

This Facility Reopening Guide provides recommendations based on guidance and regulations on preparing commercial facilities and businesses for the return to standard business operations from  health organizations such as:

While the CDC does provide guidance for COVID-19 in workplaces, another important source is OSHA which includes regulations for COVID-19 in the workplace under two clauses and standards. These standards mentioned above provide clear requirements of companies to provide safe, healthy environments for their employees.

1st) Under The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

 2nd)  OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) which applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials. Where respirators are required, employers will also have to comply with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134).

To provide the best chance of success in returning back to business in a safe and healthy manner, here are the three aspects you need to consider:

COVID-19 Facility Reopening Guide

COVID-19 Facility Reopening Guide

Even though you may be opening your doors and returning to standard business operations it is important to know that the risk of employees contracting COVID-19 coronavirus is still present and needs to be addressed accordingly. Ongoing employee and stakeholder feedback will be critical; continually review and adopt best practices and new ideas to demonstrate an active and ongoing commitment to a safe and healthy workplace environment.

  • Employees who have symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath should notify their supervisor prior to returning to work and stay home.
  • Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation is met.
  • If you become aware of any employee or person visiting your facility who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the facility should be disinfected immediately before operations can continue.

Educate your employees on the importance of continuing the standard hygiene precautions and ensure they have the necessary tools to do so. This may require installing handwash stations at entryways or refilling restroom soap dispensers more frequently.

As your employees begin returning to the workplace, it may be necessary to implement new policies and procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. It will be important to educate all employees of the new policies and provide the necessary tools for adherence to the procedures.

As your employees begin returning to the workplace, it may be necessary to implement new policies and procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. It will be important to educate all employees of the new policies and provide the necessary tools for adherence to the procedures.

Public health guidance strongly suggests that social distancing measures should be stepped down very gradually. Occupiers and property owners can convey their safety efforts to occupants by taking tangible steps to change the physical environment that supports physical distancing and other safety practices.

1. Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their COVID-19 response plan based on local conditions

Reoccupying work environments should be approached as a “reset” of ongoing soft services to support the workplace environment. It also entails continuous and frequently updated communications to employees and occupants to provide education and awareness of safety, health, and wellness initiatives underway.

This may include some or all of the following activities:

Increasing the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system.

CDC Guidance on How To Clean and Disinfect

CDC Guidance on How To Clean and Disinfect

After cleaning:

Once space has been reoccupied and work resumes, employers and employees should remain vigilant and quick to respond to unexpected or unwelcome events. Both parties should remain aware and keep protocols in place if exposure concerns return. Everyone should be prepared to return to “response” mode in the event of a suspected or confirmed exposure concern.

With so much uncertainty still ahead of us, it’s hard to plan with confidence. Employers can benefit from detailed, location-by-location reopening readiness efforts. Working together, employers, employees, and customers can both benefit from open, proactive, and practical dialogue about what the total workplace environment—from the front door of the workplace and common areas to offices—needs to look like for a safe and healthy return to work.