If your business has been closed or operating in reduced capacity because of the coronavirus, here’s what to consider when it comes to resuming business. You will need to make your own decision of when to resume operations based on changing business restrictions and your ability to meet current requirements designed to limit the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published a Resuming Business Toolkit designed to assist employers in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and lowering the impact in your workplace when reintegrating employees into non-healthcare settings.
Our partners at Liberty Mutual Insurance have highlighted eight areas of focus for restoring business operations. They are:
Health and Well-being of Your Workforce
- Recognize that the stress of the pandemic will impact people differently.
- Be proactive and provide support through employee assistance programs.
- Remain steadfast with management communication and interaction with the workforce.
Collaborate with legal counsel and Human Resource departments on policies for time off, closures, and medical and mental health benefits. It may be difficult for many to return to work outside of their home with continued school and daycare closures.
Help Reduce the Spread of the Virus
Please continue to monitor CDC guidance to educate your workforce on keeping themselves healthy and identifying early symptoms of COVID-19. Review this material at team meetings, and post prominently around the workplace. Consider communicating these critical actions:
- Stay home if you are sick (cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, new loss of taste or smell).
- Wear a mask covering your mouth and nose if you are around others. Otherwise, try to maintain social distancing.
- Encourage frequent handwashing, scrubbing all hands and wrist areas, use hand sanitizers, and avoid contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Retain recommended social distancing of at least 6 feet.
- Consider installing barrier guards and eliminating open food and drink distribution.
- Avoid large gatherings, including office meetings, and limit travel.
- Phase-in and stagger work shifts to reduce the number of workers.
- Continue work from home options where possible.
- Implement symptom screening for workers and visitors focusing on the CDC criteria. It is critical to discuss such practices with legal counsel. The information obtained may have implications for employment practices.
- Develop consistent human resource practices regarding returning workers to the operation if they have been ill.
Clean facilities before resuming business. Increase cleaning throughout the work shift. Pay additional attention to high-touch workspaces such as door handles, elevator floors, call buttons, shared work areas/desks, handrails, restrooms, computer equipment, and powered industrial equipment controls and tools. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists Registered List N: Disinfectants for Use against SARS-CoV-2 based on known and proven effectiveness with other similar viruses.
Resuming Business Relationships
Verify your supplier network of materials and services to ensure that you can meet renewed demands with the same level of quality and sustainability.
Review transactional data and contractual agreements and timelines. Work with legal counsel to verify contractual commitments and risk transfer before resuming business.
Contact local law enforcement, public health, and public safety authorities about your intent and timeline of resuming business. Obtain any necessary inspection verifications. Review lease agreements and other contractual obligations.
Verify that building security and fire protection features are fully operational and that you can renew utility service agreements without gaps. Identify changes in neighborhood dynamics that may pose an additional risk to your business or property (e.g., traffic patterns, yard storage and security, lighting).
Redeploy Idle Equipment
Examine idle and operational equipment. Implement a phase-in approach to recommission essential machines and processes. Test and verify critical functions for quality product output and safeguards to help protect workers.
If the HVAC system has been shut off or minimized for several weeks, consider steps to normalize the building’s ventilation. This should include an increase of the introduction of outdoor, fresh air into the HVAC system, improvements in air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest level compatible with the filter rack, and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass. Keep the building’s HVAC system running more extended hours, if possible 24/7, to enhance dilution ventilation and air filtration capabilities.
If the system does not allow for filtration levels of MERV-13 or better, consider temporarily supplementing the system with portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters.
Building Water Systems
If the facility has been dormant for several weeks, building maintenance should implement a hot and cold-water delivery system flush. Conduct a high temperature or chlorination disinfection. Address this procedure in your facility’s water management program. If your facility does not have a water management program, consult the CDC for Guidance. After disinfection, complete a water system flush by opening all point-of-use devices (i.e., faucets, nozzles, water fountains (bubblers)) and flushing water through all branch lines, valves, storage tanks (both hot and cold-water tanks), and other reservoirs for all hot and cold-water delivery systems in the building.
If the facility uses cartridge filters (for example, activated carbon granules or carbon block, sediment filters) for point-of-use filtration or whole building filtration, replace the filter cartridges according to the manufacturer’s recommended filter type and model. During prolonged stagnation, bacteria may have amplified on the surface of the filter media.
Prevent stagnation in HVAC systems that utilize cooling towers by recirculating the water in the cooling tower basin or storage tank regularly using a recirculation pump on a timer. Alternatively, drain and clean the entire system per the manufacturer’s cleaning procedures. After a thorough cleaning, follow all written start-up procedures to place the HVAC and cooling tower system back in service.
As various business operations resume, critical strategies need to be considered. It is essential to stay connected with the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance and Guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health and other state and municipal health departments.
As always, contact your insurance agent with questions about your coverage. At Farris Insurance, we’re here to help you navigate through this unprecedented time.