Now that some states are starting to re-open businesses and move out of strict quarantine standards, you might be wondering what safety steps you should take to keep your business, your employees, and your clients safe.
While safety precautions can vary from industry to industry, there are a few universal precautions that most people and some government agencies seem to agree.
What OSHA says
An acronym that has entered the cultural vernacular over the last two months is PPE. Personal protective equipment, which commonly includes face masks and gloves, is used across various industries, including healthcare and construction. Chances are your employees who work on job sites are already familiar with PPE. The OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) guidelines for Construction PPE include protection for eyes, face, feet, hand, head, and hearing.
To ensure further safety in light of COVID-19, OSHA has issued additional guidelines regarding PPE. A full account is here, but these are the highlights:
- All working employees should be provided with gloves and sanitizing wipes and liquids for use on the job site or while working.
- Encourage contactless payment options, such as online or mobile payment, instead of handling credit/debit cards or cash.
- Avoid shaking hands.
- Maintain a distance of 6 feet on the worksite between other people.
OSHA has also issued an Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 encapsulated in a memo. This memo outlines enforcement policies and OSHA's intention to investigate claims of COVID-19 infections or deaths in the workplace. While this type of oversight is rarely necessary for small or medium-sized businesses, it's essential to know that the federal government is taking the spread of COVID-19 seriously and will flex its power to investigate as needed.
The good news is that OSHA workers in the construction/painting/home repair industries are not in very high or high-risk categories. So if you take the steps above, you should help mitigate any remaining risk.
Other safety measures
While it's true that news outlets have reported the idea of taking employees' temperatures or self-screening questionnaires, implementing these tactics can lead to sticky situations. Due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), the use of this information could impinge on an employee's civil rights, leading to legal issues. This article published by the HIPAA Journal offers a good breakdown of HIPAA compliance as it relates to the current situation with COVID-19.
The situation surrounding COVID-19 has been changing daily since word of the pandemic first reached the national media. We have seen various responses across state and federal agencies that run the gamut from closing schools to shutting down beaches to limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery options only. In the past few days, states like California, Florida, and Michigan have modified their stay-at-home orders. For a full run-down of the status of each state, check out this listing from CNN.com.
In the end, common sense will prevail.
It seems that in lieu of any state or federal mandate, many of the steps that individuals and businesses have already taken remain the best recommendation. These include:
- Wear a mask or facial covering. (While certified N-95 respirators are recommended, it is noted that having any facial covering is preferable to having none.)
- Maintain 6 feet of distance between people when out in public spaces.
- Limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and consistently throughout the day. (With soap and water for at least 20 seconds).
- Avoid shaking hands.
- Analyze current business and social needs and only proceed with the most essential and necessary work or events.
It is hard to say when business and life will return to "normal" or if our new normal will look very different. There's a good chance that we will all be living with the fall-out from COVID-19 for months and possibly years to come. However, by keeping common sense top of mind and implementing the above safety precautions, we may be able to see a return to a more recognizable daily routine. And that includes keeping your business up and running.