While the majority of non-essential facilities are currently shuttered, with the increases in unemployment and economic hardships, removing shelter in place mandates may happen sooner rather than later.
On April 16, 2020 President Trump announced guidelines for reopening state economies, which includes benchmarks for testing, new case growth and hospital capacity. Currently many governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom, have started to outline plans for reopening their states and permitting businesses to get back to work.
Even in this moment of uncertainty, today’s businesses should be planning for the future. The health of facilities and its occupants after the infiltration of the COVID-19 pandemic has become more important than ever.
As you get ready to get your facility “COVID-19 clean” and open facilities, we want to provide you with these four phases of reopening a facility to ensure the safety, and satisfaction of occupants.
Planning (the most important step)
Having a clear plan for opening your facilities will be the most important part of the four-phase process. You should insert yourself onto the planning team early. You know the possibilities and limitations of your facility, so make sure you are part of the conversation and lend your expertise. Here are some things to consider during the planning process:
- Can clean air be filtered into the building without risking security or compliance violations?
- The HVAC is one of the most expensive and needed pieces of facilities equipment – was it shut down during the shutter? Was maintenance deferred? Testing and professional maintenance may be needed to avoid long-term issues.
- Will there be special spacing requirements or occupant needs to consider, and what are they?
- Are there funds in the budget to include touchless technology, high-touch disinfection throughout the day, sanitation stations, training and signage?
- How many employees will be returning initially and at what increment will future employees come into the facility?
- What equipment or staff will be needed to establish the new high importance of sanitation?
- What is the plan to get into high gear and how can you balance that while keeping occupants healthy and safe?
Risk and Cost Assessment
Now you will need to gather the data and assess any risks that have appeared because of the plan. This will help you measure priorities and develop a clear launch plan that you can communicate to executive leaders.
- Determine your new occupancy maximum based on the space requirements and rearrange the facility to allow for the additional space needed (one-way walkways, stickers on the floor, moving desks, etc.)
- Verify different risk values for new technologies, furniture, signs, space adjustments, disinfecting units and additional outsourced staff
- Calculate new budgetary needs and rank their importance for easier understanding
- Ensure access of proper PPE, EPA-recommended disinfecting solutions and equipment to meet the new guidelines
- Define what sanitation practices should be done by professionals and what should be the responsibility of occupants.
Remobilize and Procure
Before opening the doors, you can consult the CDC Center for Preparedness and Response directions and checklists to make sure you didn’t miss anything when preparing to open your facility. Depending on the length of time the building has been closed, that can help you determine the steps you should take. Also consider contacting a professional cleaning and disinfection company and consult with their experts before allowing occupants to reenter your facility.
- Procure your necessities – equipment, disinfecting solutions, experts in janitorial, PPE, furniture enhancements, spacing stickers, one-way signs, etc. – and begin training and installation
- NOTE: due to COVID-19, procurement may be more difficult as businesses begin to reopen. You should start procuring the necessary supplies and services as early as possible, and preferably 10-14 days before allowing any personnel into the facility.
- Clearly communicate all changes to your facility management or janitorial company with staff and occupants
- Initiate training for occupants on how to self-sanitize during the day – use signage, guides, videos and direct communications to provide helpful information
- Define different levels of cleaning and disinfection that need to take place in the facility, when and how often
- Complete an audit of the facility and its systems
- Create guidelines and step-by-step response plans if an infected occupant has been reported visiting the facility or is currently onsite
Start getting back to “the new normal”
As employees start reentering the facility and work is being completed, it may be easy to fall into old ways. But things have changed, at least for the foreseeable future. You’ll need to set new guidelines, create new processes and stay on top of issues and results.
- Enhance old protocols and processes for the “new norm”
- Establish rules and processes for internal versus external teams
- Clearly communicate updates and changes to teams and staff
- Prepare guidelines and rules for what will happen as business continues to increase and more employees are on site
- Be ready for an onsite occurrence of COVID-19 and work with HR and Safety departments to establish the protocols for handling a case that is within your facility
- Become flexible and ready to change in an instant as we learn more about COVID-19 and how to defeat it
If you need help or have questions, reach out, we’re here to help. Flagship Facility Services has over 30 years of experience, we have updated processes and regimens based on the COVID-19 virus and we’ve helped essential businesses stay clean and safe through the pandemic.
Since early January, Flagship has reported on the COVID-19 coronavirus and presented ways companies and airports can prepare and protect their occupants. You can access Flagship’s dedicated coronavirus information hub, which includes past articles, videos, printable materials, updates from the CDC and the World Health Organization.