Tricia Dunlap, Esq.
~5-6 minute read
Reopen Your Business
You as a business owner need to think about how you prepare to reopen your business following COVID-19. In part one of this series I talked about operational and administrative control issues that you need to think through. In this post, we go into personal protective equipment and written policies that you need to have in place.
Personal Protective Equipment
Let’s deal with PPE, or personal protective equipment. First of all, the type of PPE that is appropriate for either your customers or your employees varies depending on the tasks they perform, the level of hazard associated with that task, and the types of exposure that they might experience or have the potential to experience.
The CDC and OSHA have some valuable guidance on this. OSHA actually has a really helpful hierarchy of risk assessment to determine the level of hazard based on the type of task and then decide what types of PPE are appropriate. That could include anything from masks to gloves to hand sanitizer to eye shields or additional cleaning and disinfecting equipment.
So all of these needs vary depending on your business model and you’ll need to do that assessment independently to determine what your business needs to ensure the health and safety of your employees as much as possible.
Written Policies about COVID-19
Now let’s talk about policies. It’s really important that you have clearly written policies showing how you addressed concerns around COVID-19. These policies not only support the expectations that you have of your employees, particularly around the administrative controls that I talked about in part one of this series, and the kinds of habit changes that you’ll require of either employees or perhaps also of customers.
Your written policies need to support those behavior changes that you require when you reopen your business. It will also provide important documentation in case down the line there is a claim made against your business. The ability to show that you adopted carefully considered evidence-based written policies that were then shared with employees will be very helpful in defending any kind of claim.
The other thing that’s helpful in having a written policy is, some of these issues can be really emotionally charged. You know, if an employee comes into the workplace and says, “My mom was diagnosed with COVID-19 and I still live with her.” Then people tend to react to that really strongly and having a written policy in place that sets forth all of the steps that you will take as the employer if that situation were to arise can be really helpful for you to navigate an emotionally charged incident at your workplace. I want to touch on three types of policies that you need to consider.
Three Policies You Should Adopt
Duty to Report
Create a duty to report policy when you reopen your business. This is a policy that should be shared with all of your employees and it goes into what their responsibilities are to report to you, or to someone at your workplace who perhaps is a designated contact person for this, if they have gotten sick, if someone they live with has gotten sick, or if they’ve come into contact with someone who has a known diagnosis of COVID-19, you need to be really clear on what you expect of your employees. Furthermore, this policy should also go into the steps that you will take as an employer if that situation arises.
The second kind of policy you need to consider is a temperature check policy. If you’re going to implement temperature checks in your workplace, then you need to carefully consider all of the downstream impacts of that. Will you check people’s temperature before they come into the building or after it? Will you be having your employees be on the clock or off the clock? How frequently will you check temperatures and will people in higher risk categories be tested more frequently? All of these are the kinds of issues that you need to spell out in your written temperature check policy.
Leave and Tardiness
Finally, you need to consider your leave and tardiness policies when you reopen your business. First of all, paid leave has changed, thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We have a video about the FFCRA available along with more resources for your business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Importance of Policies and PPE
Before you reopen your business, it’s very important to make sure that any written policy on paid leave aligns with the FFCRA. Furthermore, you need to consider your tardiness policy, in light of how your employees get to work.
If everybody is commuting in their own individual vehicle, it may not be that big of an issue for you, but if you have employees who routinely rely on public transit, then it’s important to consider how changes in the public transit system might impact their ability to get to work and be there on time. So, you might want to consider revisiting or reconsidering your tardiness policy, based on the means and methods by which your employees get to work.
These are three important policies that you need to have in place at the very least, a duty to report policy, a temperature check policy, and a leave and tardiness policy. As always, the landscape around COVID-19 is shifting dramatically and often on a daily basis.
It’s important that you stay flexible, it’s important that you stay informed. Be aware of the kinds of guidance that OSHA and the CDC are publishing that you can use to help your business thrive. We’re doing the best we can to give you as many free resources as we can. If this post helped you, please like and share it, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel.