After a few months of lockdown after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in certain industries and locations are getting ready to return to work. These businesses will need to do so in accordance with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, but companies are working hard to come up with plans around office safety that will help their employees and customers feel safe and comfortable.
Of course, some are anxious and worried about returning too soon and putting lives at risk, along with compliance and legal worries on the business side.
Finding the right balance of health and workplace safety measures in the workplace while trying to recover economically is a big challenge, but it’s top of mind right now for most business owners.
Is it the Right Time to Reopen for You?
In order to determine if it’s the right time for a business to reopen, the first step is to follow the Canada occupational health and safety regulations as well as any other guidance for your specific province. Not following workplace health and safety measures could result in fines, penalties, and even lawsuits.
Once your type of business or industry has been given the all-clear to open, pay special attention to any restrictions about occupancy, as well as steps you must take to help promote social distancing and safety.
Ideally, if you have the type of business that can be conducted with workers at home, you might opt to continue doing so for at least a portion of your workforce. Other questions to ask yourself is if your place of business will need to be reconfigured to follow business and workplace safety guidelines. Also, think about your workforce and your customers. Are they part of a vulnerable population? What can you do to help shield them from potential risks?
Finally, don’t forget that each industry has its own unique set of challenges. Retailers and hospitality businesses will have different concerns than construction and manufacturing, for example. Be sure to research the recommended safety protocols you’ll need to implement in order to reopen your specific type of business.
Ways to Ensure Employee Safety
Keeping your workforce safe is, of course, the most important priority. Thanks to all the learnings of the past few months, businesses can follow Canada occupational health and safety regulations and develop their own safety tips for work. Some of these may include:
Educate your workers and put up signage about office safety
For those who have been home for the past few months, getting used to new habits will take time. Businesses should send out guidance before reopening, do virtual training and post reminders on-site so that everyone understands how to do their part. In addition, encourage employees to avoid mass transportation and non-essential travel as much as possible.
Maintain workplace hygiene
Shift from shared items and tools to everyone using their own items as much as possible. Disinfect shared spaces and high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, countertops and light switches. Provide workers with personal protective equipment (as needed) as well as hand sanitizer and wipes to keep their personal work surfaces clean in between deeper cleanings.
Implement social distancing
Maintaining at least six feet of space between people is ideal, and when that’s not possible, both parties should wear a face covering. Businesses should also think about avoiding big congregations in high-traffic communal spaces like an office cafeteria or meeting rooms. Staggered shifts can help. If you have a retail space or provide services to the public, space out appointments and limit the number of people in your store/office at once. Also, consider installing plexiglass barriers and partitions to help protect employees working with the public.
Monitor employees’ health
Many businesses are doing temperature checks, asking health screening questions, and more. It’s also important to strongly emphasize to your workers that they should stay home as soon as they have any symptoms that could be COVID-19. Be sure to also adjust your sick leave policy accordingly. Finally, have a plan in place should someone in your workplace become ill so you can determine if any other employees were exposed. Anyone who had contact with the sick person should be tested immediately.
Go contactless whenever possible
If there is an option to make payments and accept deliveries without physically exchanging money or receipts, make that switch. Switch to no-touch trash cans and soap dispensers.
Better Safe than Sorry
Ultimately, it’s the employer’s duty to provide a safe environment for the employees. That starts with getting familiar with coronavirus prevention tactics and maintaining safety regulations to protect employees to prevent the spread. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but your due diligence will help instill confidence in your employees that they are working in the safest environment possible.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.