Open for business? Here are 6 ways to keep employees and customers safe

Consider these tips to prevent the spread of coronavirus as you reopen your business.

Reopening safely

Employers preparing to open their doors after closing for coronavirus have a lot to think about, not the least of which is how to keep workers and customers safe from the spread of the virus.

We're here to help.

“There's an overwhelming amount of information about not only the coronavirus, but how to safely reopen businesses,″ says Liz Hill, SAIF's Total Worker Health adviser. “The basics that apply to almost all organizations include considerations that protect employees and customers and can be adapted as up-to-date information is available.″

SAIF safety and health experts have compiled a short list of safety tips, and ideas on how to apply them, for businesses to consider. We recommend you consult an employment lawyer or your HR department with questions about HR issues related to reopening. This recorded webinar has more information about employment law and reopening, and reference the Bureau of Labor and Industries page on coronavirus and workplace laws for more information.

Keep in mind that information from the State of Oregon on reopening is frequently updated. You can find current information on their COVID-19 resources page

Maintain social distancing Maintain social distancing

  • Reconfigure your space or create barriers to ensure people stay six feet apart
  • Stagger or modify employee schedules to limit the number of workers in the workplace at a given time
  • Follow public health guidelines regarding special accommodations and protections for vulnerable or high-risk employees. This could include allowing higher risk employees to continue working from home  

Wear masks Wear masks

  • While cloth face coverings protect others from exposure to the wearer, they are not a replacement for industry or task-specific required respirators and PPE
  • In Oregon, masks or cloth materials that cover the nose and mouth are required when physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • The state strongly recommends certain businesses establish a mandatory face-covering policy for customers (see our safety guide for which businesses this applies to)

Clean and disinfect the workplace Clean and disinfect

  • Clean your workplace before reopening and disinfect if it has been occupied within the last seven days
  • Clean and disinfect immediately if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed positive
  • Maintain a regular cleaning schedule (and don't forget shared vehicles)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specific industry guidance for workplaces, based on risk level

Daily health checks Health checks

  • Conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks for employees is optional, according to the CDC
  • Consider conducting these for all employees that enter the worksite
  • Use no-touch thermometers if you decide to do temperature checks
  • Follow guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding confidentiality of medical records from health checks
  • Develop a plan in the event an employee develops symptoms while in the workplace, tests positive for COVID-19, or is determined to be presumptively positive by a public health authority  

Train employees Train employees

  • Schedule time for training before reopening if possible
  • Train all employees on coronavirus policies and procedures
  • Don't forget basic safety and health training specific to your industry and work environment as a reminder or for new employees  

Create a culture of well-being 

  • Acknowledge family needs, job security, finances, and daily disruptions may cause stress and anxiety among employees 
  • Ensure employees are aware of resources, including pandemic-specific services offered by employee assistance programs, health plans, or wellness programs 

“There is a spectrum of responses from employees, from some who are ready to get back to work to others who may be anxious,” Hill says. “Building flexibility into the plan and communicating regularly with employees about protective actions is reflective of a strong safety culture.” 

Visit our safety guide for more details on safe ways to reopen your business. You can find many more tips and resources at saif.com/coronavirussafety.