COVID-19: Back to Work Considerations & the New Norm
Even though COVID-19 is still a worldwide concern, the topic of conversation in all industries is how to co-exist with the threat of this virus impacting the livelihood of businesses, customers, and employees. The only thing certain is that “business as usual” will look a lot different in the near future, and companies will have to learn how to operate in a new kind of normal.
While many businesses in the shipping and transportation industry remained opened and operating during the height of the pandemic because they were considered essential, it is still important to consider necessary changes to keep employees, customers, and their companies safe.
Sanitizing the Workplace
Deep cleaning of employee and customer-facing premises should be discussed and prioritized with maintenance crews now. Demand will be high for thorough and more time-consuming methods of enhanced surface cleaning involving additional anti-viral chemicals and UV lights. Not only should cleaning crews frequently deep clean surfaces and common areas, but routine disinfecting procedures should be communicated to employees concerning regular cleaning of high touch areas like keypads, conference rooms, coffee machines, and other shared equipment. This will involve having more cleaning supplies onhand such as disinfectants, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, air filtration/purifiers, and paper products which are already limited in supply and should be ordered soon.
State and local municipal social distancing orders should be followed and communicated to employees and customers by posting signage in high visibility areas throughout the workplace. It may also be necessary to minimize the amount of staff required to be on-premises at the same time while letting others continue to work from home or implementing rotating shifts. This is an important aspect to get ahead of now because it may involve moving around workstations and office equipment so no one particular area will attract a higher concentration of people than others - think of scenarios like an employee desk located near a copy machine. Supply deliveries, courier services, and any other regularly occurring occasions where outsiders must enter the premises should be reviewed and determined if they can be performed in a way that limits the amount of interaction and exposure with employees.
Flights and Travel
All business-related travel should be considered whether it is essential and if the destination is considered a COVID-19 “hot spot” before determining the best method of transportation and lodging. If it’s necessary for an employee to fly, consider airlines that are implementing more rigorous sanitation methods of airplanes and who are enforcing policies about wearing masks and social distancing by passengers and/or employees. It may also be reasonable to choose hotels that are implementing similar procedures to protect their guests. After an employee returns from travel, determine if they should quarantine at home before returning to the office with other staff to prevent infection.
These are just a few important aspects companies are having to consider as the world prepares to reopen. For additional guidance, please review the White House Guidance on Reopening America, the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 as well as the HHS HIPPA Guidance as it relates to COVID-19.
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