10 Protocols to Stay Open and Keep Your Employees Safe From COVID-19
The latest recommendations from the experts.
As an entrepreneur and a business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your place of work safe. In these uncertain economic times with a raging worldwide pandemic, there are many things that are probably competing for your attention. Yet, one of the most critical things you can do is develop a business strategy to ensure the safety of your customers and employees. That will help keep your business running free of any disruptions from closures.
The question is: what can you do to ensure your workplace is safe so it can remain open?
A great place to start is by implementing standard precautions for infection control. Standard precautions are simply practices that manage the spread of disease (even under non-pandemic conditions).
They’re generally effective in a variety of workplaces, so they can be standardized for a range of settings and individuals. The following items can be employed to stop the spread of COVID-19 for businesses and are recommended by the CDC. More information can be found here.
1. Proper Hand Hygiene
You’re probably aware by now, but hand hygiene is the most effective means of infection control, according to the CDC.
Per the CDC’s recommendations, cleaning your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth and after…
● Touching an item or surface that is frequently touched by other people in a public place (handrails, counters, doorknobs/handles, etc.)
● Removing personal protective equipment, or contact with infectious bodily fluids
To properly conduct hand hygiene, the CDC directs the use of plain or anti-bacterial soap and water. If hand washing isn’t possible, then an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is sufficient. To encourage hand hygiene, hand wash signs can be posted in restrooms.
2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The purpose of PPE is to create a barrier that protects the skin, clothing, mucous membranes, and respiratory tract from infectious agents.
General PPE includes items such as gloves, goggles, gowns, face shields or masks, and respiratory protection. The CDC states that the most effective PPE in public settings is a face covering that covers the nose and mouth. If you aren’t using a disposable face covering, you should wash it after use.
3. Respiratory Hygiene
COVID-19 is spread mainly by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Transmission occurs when these droplets are inhaled by or land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.
In a closed environment, these respiratory secretions can easily spread infection. The CDC’s respiratory hygiene, or cough etiquette, is designed to limit transmission of respiratory pathogens that spread via droplet or airborne routes. To practice respiratory hygiene, the CDC states:
● Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing using a tissue or the crook of your elbow
● Discard tissues after use helps preventing infections from contact
● Wear a mask to contain respiratory droplets which carry the novel coronavirus
4. Clean and Disinfect Surfaces
Frequently cleaning and disinfecting surfaces/objects contributes to infection control by removing the presence of pathogens.
Cleaning first removes germs, dirt, and impurities. This helps prevent creating an environment conducive for infections to occur.
Disinfecting then kills microbes like bacteria and viruses from which infections occur. The CDC advises that routine cleaning schedules be kept up as normal with special care for common areas.
The SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not survive long on surfaces and objects. It dies within hours to days. It can also be killed using any products that are recommended by the EPA, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes.
5. Hazard Assessment
As part of your business reopening plans, you need to perform a workplace hazard assessment. This will help identify and recognize the hazards that are present or anticipated. Failure to do so is one of the main causes of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents involving all types of infections.
Hazard assessment identifies exposure to risk, classified as low, medium, high, or very high. Exposure potential varies from occupation to occupation. It all depends on the proximity and frequency of contact with people known to be or suspected of being infected.
For example, remote workers have a low exposure risk. Those having close contact with the general public face medium risk. Healthcare delivery and support staff are considered high risk and healthcare workers, extremely high risk.
6. Social Distancing
COVID-19 mainly spreads from person-to-person. As a result, the CDC has advised people to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others in shared spaces.
Modifying layouts of these spaces and installing physical barriers and guides to support social distancing may be appropriate for your business.
7. Daily Health Checks
Daily health checks can be performed to screen employees, independent contractors, and visitors. Asking for symptoms of COVID-19 infection in the form of a coronavirus screening questionnaire is one method. Doing daily temperature screenings is another effective way of preventing this infectious disease from spreading to other team members.
Make sure to conduct these checks safely and respectfully. Higher body temperatures and positive screening questions can help flag at-risk individuals. They help determine the risk of infection, exposure status, and the presence of symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
As required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, any COVID-19 testing for businesses must maintain confidentiality.
8. Workplace Protocol
You’re sure to be asked for the protocol in the case someone is exposed to or has symptoms of COVID-19. For example, older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for COVID-19 infection.
They may not be able to work in person or on-site. They might even be more likely to have a life-threatening situation requiring hospital care. It is a good idea to ensure there are telework options (if appropriate) for such high-risk or at-risk individuals.
It is a good idea to develop and implement policies that encourage employees to notify you if they or a family member have symptoms of an infection. Have them notify you if they test positive for COVID-19 infection. It is helpful to assure employees that they can stay at home without fear of reprisal.
You want your employees to notify you and to refrain from returning to work until they meet isolation criteria. The Public Health Recommendations for community-related Exposure is a good resource for ideas on infection control compliance and risk management.
Develop and maintain a relationship with a local coronavirus testing facility and share the list of testing sites with staff. Rapid coronavirus Testing, PCR Coronavirus tests, and COVID-19 Antibody Test results all have a role in making sure your business reopening plans don't get derailed.
9. Educate Your Employees
Be sure to review coronavirus COVID-19 infection control precautions that will be implemented with employees. Educating employees on the infection process and the importance of practicing precautions will motivate adherence to them.
There’s currently no widely accepted therapeutic drug to fight infection from the novel coronavirus. Many types of vaccines are being developed to prevent COVID-19. Meanwhile, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Knowing how the virus spreads informs exposure avoidance.
10. Partner With an Urgent Care Clinic That Offers COVID-19 Testing for Businesses
Lastly, it is a good idea to partner with a facility that can see your employees quickly and perform the Rapid coronavirus Testing. An urgent care clinic -- like Statcare Urgent & Walk-In Medical Care in New York City -- that offers on-site COVID-19 testing for businesses.
Statcare helps customize a plan for onsite COVID-19 testing for medium and large-sized businesses. They also provide telehealth visits, and guidance to help your business stay compliant with all COVID-related protocols and mandates.
This includes recommending supplies for your business, such as:
● Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
● Paper towels/tissues
● No-touch receptacles for PPE disposal
...and PPE, like masks and gloves for employees, plexiglass partitions (if appropriate), and more.
Additionally, employers should work with local and state health departments to ensure they’re following the appropriate and current protocols and guidelines.
Armed with these 10 steps, you can ensure that you remain open. Keeping your employees safe will help prevent callouts, illness, and business disruption from COVID-19. It will also provide you with more time to focus on things that will help the business survive the economic downturn.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor