COVID-19 and the Workplace: This Is How to Keep Everyone Safe

COVID-19 and the Workplace: This Is How to Keep Everyone Safe

With stay-at-home orders being lifted and governors issuing guidance for workplaces to start reopening, many are wondering how to keep both employees and customers safe. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is still high when interacting with others, especially those that do not live in the same household. Despite the risks associated with going out in public, returning to work and reopening is a reality many of us are already facing or will face in the weeks ahead.

Implementing some basic practices according to government guidelines can help reduce the risks of contracting and spreading the coronavirus among co-workers and customers. These practices can work together to not only reduce exposure but ensure those who are already sick do not enter public spaces. A combination of these practices is necessary since new information about the ways the virus spreads are being discovered each day.

Personal Protective Equipment

Providing employees and customers with personal protective equipment, like that from Capitol Glass, is a good way to keep everyone safe. Depending upon the nature of the business, having masks available or requiring customers and employees to wear masks can help reduce the spread of the virus. Having hand sanitizer on hand for customers and employees to use frequently is also critical, as well as implementing enhanced or more robust cleaning practices.

For example, retail establishments that involve several customers touching a keypad or checkout counter will need to ensure these areas are sanitized and cleaned after each use. Gyms with exercise equipment are another example. Ensuring all equipment is cleaned and sanitized after each use is absolutely necessary.

Installing plastic shields at checkout counters and around cubicle openings is yet another step businesses can take to ensure everyone’s safety. Plastic shields place a barrier between the employee and co-workers, as well as between employees and customers. By placing a barrier, people can still see each other and interact, but without physical contact and from a safe distance.

Educating employees and customers on proper handwashing and sanitation is the first-line means of defense. Making sure employees know what should be cleaned and when, as well as how often to wash their hands can help model appropriate behaviors in the workplace. Holding conference calls and giving employees an outlet to express or report concerns can make them feel supported and safe.

Sick Employees Should Stay Home

Employees who are sick should not come into work or feel pressured to show up to work. Employees who report to work and feel as though they are starting to develop symptoms should also be allowed to leave immediately. Communicating policies that support employees taking sick or personal leave instead of showing up for work is critical. Employees should know who to report to in the event they fall ill and should feel comfortable and safe in doing this.

On the other hand, retail establishments and businesses that have to allow the general public to enter should also have policies in place for sick customers or patients. Policies and practices should be enacted that strongly discourage sick customers or customers who might be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the establishment. Temperature checks for both employees and customers are one way of checking for symptoms.

Reducing In-Person Capacity

Another way that workplaces can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 is to limit the number of people in the building. This can be done by allowing some employees to work from home if the job permits. By having as many employees work from home as possible, those employees that need to be on-site to perform their jobs can do so with a reduced risk of exposure. Staggering shifts and reducing the number of customers allowed in a store at the same time can also help.

Placing signs throughout the building that encourage and remind people of social distancing can be an effective way to reduce in-person contact. Some businesses may be required to use this signage, depending upon the nature of the establishment and local government orders. For instance, grocery stores and dentist offices may be required to install floor signage and point of sale signage that reminds people to practice social distancing.

Enforcement of Regulations and Guidance

Even though local governments may put regulations and guidance into place, that does not mean everyone agrees with those decisions. Some customers or employees may wish to go against the guidance and regulations out of spite or in protest. Making sure the regulations and guidance are embraced by all employees and customers is important. Employees and other customers will not feel safe if some are permitted to shop without wearing a mask or show up to work when they have symptoms.

Educating both employees and customers can make it easier for them to get the message that non-compliance will not be tolerated. For example, some governors have signed executive orders permitting businesses to refuse service to customers who do not want to wear a mask. Although this can be difficult to enforce, and employees may feel uncomfortable refusing service to customers who may choose to become irate, providing management and escalation support can help.

Enforcement may mean the temporary loss of a customer or a sale, but sending the message that the health and safety of all customers and employees come first is bound to have a more profound impact. If employees and customers do not feel safe, they may stop coming to work or start to shop elsewhere. Customers that do not see employees taking health and safety seriously may also develop animosity towards the company or wonder why no one is following the guidelines.

COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped every aspect of our lives. From recreation to entertainment to our work lives, the changes we’ve experienced are likely to continue for some time. As workplaces and businesses reopen, taking every precaution to ensure everyone’s safety will ensure that we do not have to return to more restrictive measures. Educating, providing protective measures, and enforcement of those measures can help keep everyone safe.

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