What Not to Do When You Reopen Your Business
Small business owners have been left without any clear guidance from local or state governments on how to go about reopening their businesses after coronavirus-induced stay-at-home orders are lifted. And without anything but vague advice from the Federal Government, business owners are left to figure out how to keep workers safe on their own. In anticipation of the many claims that will be reported of employees getting sick in the workplace, it is important for business owners to remember that while workers’ compensation may cover many of them, negligence claims won’t be. Therefore, employers need to be ready to show that steps have been taken to preemptively reduce risk in their facilities.
Luckily, professionals have been offering tips for business owners on how to avoid some of the most common potential problems while making plans – specifically, on what NOT to do:
- Don’t automatically adopt a company-run temperature-taking operation.
Taking employees’ temperatures before they enter may sound like a good safety measure until you realize the logistical challenges that would involve. Think about these three areas of concern: keeping that biometric data private once you collect it, figuring out how to compensate employees while they wait in line, and keeping the people in that line safe, given the imperative to social distance. Soon, employers may not have a choice on this matter because some areas may issue reopening guidance that advises companies to begin taking their employees’ temperatures. If so, try to avoid the privacy problem by using instant-read thermometers that simply show the employee’s temperature while collecting as little data as possible.
- Don’t assume social distancing will be easy to enforce.
Similar to taking temperatures, while social distancing seems simple in theory, it’s much more difficult to execute. Even if you can move desks ensuring workers are six feet apart, you also need to address break rooms and bathrooms. If you can, make communal restrooms into one-person bathrooms. Think about public-facing positions such as receptionists and how you’ll keep them from exposure, and consider making hallways one-way, if possible.
- Don’t assume all of your employees will feel safe enough to come back to work.
Even if you take all necessary safety precautions, it’s highly likely you will have some employees who won’t want to return to work because they feel unsafe. Start thinking now about how you’ll handle operations if people still want to work from home and how to treat everyone fairly if this comes up.
- Don’t equip your team with masks without a proper procedure in place.
Certain regions may order businesses to supply their employees with masks, but like many other requirements, there may be no additional guidance provided on how to do so. Therefore, it will be up to your company to figure out a plan for getting a sufficient supply, keeping them clean, and training employees on how to wear them properly. Adopt a policy on this to avoid confusion and establish rules such as allowing or prohibiting workers to wear a bandanna. Include official times when the situation allows that masks can be removed.
- Don’t forget to come up with a plan for how to handle visitors to your office.
Think about how to handle third-party visitors such as clients or mail delivery workers. Post clear signage and advise visitors not to enter if they’ve had Covid-19 symptoms recently or have been in contact with someone who has been infected. Consider stipulating that visitors call a designated employee, such as the receptionist, instead of walking in without notice.