Reopening Your Business Safely After a Temporary Closure

June 18, 2020

Get back to business as usual with tips and recommendations from the experts.

At HBL Insurance Agency, we know you’re ready to get back in business. And, we want to help you get there safely. To help you navigate the reopening of your business after a temporary closure, below are simple guidelines from safety experts to help business owners reduce potential exposures and understand how you can protect your employees, customers and vendors, as well as your property, machinery and equipment.

Limiting exposure to COVID-19 is the key to keeping employees safe while in the workplace. To do this, businesses should
consider the following:

• Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisals, and ensure employees are aware of these policies. Develop other flexible policies for scheduling and telework (if feasible) and create leave policies to allow employees to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools and childcare close.

• Promote etiquette for coughing and sneezing and handwashing. Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, soap and water, and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

• Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees if social distancing is recommended by your state or local health department. Actively encourage flexible work arrangements such as teleworking or staggered shifts.

• Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, handrails, and doorknobs. Discourage sharing of tools and equipment, if feasible.

• Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and
literacy level for all employees, like fact sheets and posters.

• If one of your employees becomes sick while at work, they should be separated from other employees, customers and
visitors and sent home immediately. Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting areas the sick employee visited.
If you’d like to learn more about protecting employees from COVID-19 as your business reopens, the following resources
from OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are available:
Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
COVID-19 – Businesses & Workplaces

Visitors and Patrons

For businesses who welcome visitors and/or patrons into their buildings, additional precautions should be taken for minimizing exposure. Whenever possible, limiting visitors, subcontractors, vendors, etc. from coming to your site will minimize potential exposure. If it is necessary for any nonemployee to visit your business in person, be sure to inform them of any new requirements ahead of time. Communicate clear expectations on protocols in place including social distancing, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and any steps taken to decrease virus transmission from potentially contaminated surfaces.  For businesses who serve the public, precautions need to be taken to minimize exposure to patrons as well as employees.  This includes effective Communication, Controls, and Cleaning & Disinfecting processes.

When patrons enter your business, be sure to clearly communicate behaviors and expectations upon entry so that everyone understands what is expected of them while in the business. Instituting a screening process prior to entering can also aid in minimizing exposure.

Cleaning & Disinfecting
Initiate processes and protocols for regular cleaning and disinfecting the business. Routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces can help slow the spread of COVID. Cleaning and disinfection should be done at least after every work shift daily or more depending on the type of business. Focus on high-touch surfaces and objects. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. In retail and food establishments, pay special attention to cash registers, tables, chairs and all countertops.  The CDC also offers a Cleaning & Disinfecting – Plan, Prepare, & Respond guide for businesses.

Property, Machinery and Equipment

Prior to reopening a business or building after extended closure, consideration should be given to building systems, as they have sat idle for a period of time. Building water systems and devices that use water should all be serviced. Stagnant water can create ideal conditions for certain bacterial growth, including Legionella.

HVAC systems should also be inspected. Operate these systems prior to re-occupancy and continue their operation over longer hours. Consider improving air filtration by using a filter with the highest-compatible rating or use of portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters. For businesses that have large machinery and equipment, a cold start-up of machinery and equipment following a period of inactivity could lead to catastrophic failure of mechanical parts. A pre-start inspection of all critical parts and components will minimize unexpected breakdowns. Here’s what businesses should be mindful of before starting up
• Ensure all critical spare parts and tools are present. • Examine the machine for leaks and check that lubrication levels are sufficient.
• Check that plugged-in electrical parts are securely connected and there is no loose or damaged wiring. With the power still isolated, check control panel switches and buttons are working properly.
• Where possible, move rotating, pivoting and sliding parts manually and lubricate where required according to the machine’s maintenance manual.
• Replace all guarding after the necessary checks have been completed and safely start the machine slowly in steps. If possible, verify each part is operating correctly before engaging the next step.

If you’d like additional information on safe start-up practices, Hartford Steam Boiler offers a free guide for equipment startup after a lengthy shutdown period.