5 Strategies to Limit Liability as You Reopen Facilities During COVID-19

Categories: Safety, Employees, Janitorial, Coronavirus, Facilities Maintenance

Organizations of all types and sizes have faced unprecedented challenges in the last few months: the devastating impact of the global pandemic, the economic fallout from business interruption and staggering unemployment, and the pressing need to remedy the longstanding racial injustice in our midst.

Discover the many ways to stay open responsibly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If one year was able to embody the statement “the only constant is change”, the year 2020 would be that.

However, businesses need to venture on. Even though things have changed and will continue to change, you should accept the fact that we will not return to working how we did before.

As you reopen your facility in phases, here are some strategies to help you limit the risks and your liability.

Keep at Least a Portion of the Workforce Remaining Virtual for the Future

Employees that have done well with working from home, or possibly even thrived, should be able to remain in their home offices for the distant future. Limiting the number of employees that come in the door each day will help you keep control of the facility and limit your expenses. When you use a smaller portion of your facility each day, and close off unused sections, it can help reduce electricity costs, supplies expenses and allow cleaning and disinfection teams to better focus on areas with the highest health impact.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Transparency is paramount during COVID-19 recovery. Focus your communications around your purpose so that it becomes an anchor for your teams. Communicate clearly and honestly to your teams and get employees focused on future growth.

Changes will keep coming, and your team will continue to need regular updates.

Dedicate part of your time each day to developing communications for employees. Be clear and concise with updates so as not to overload them with information. These daily updates can be placed on an intranet message board for easy employee access. Then use your daily updates to compile a longer-form message for more formal and routine communications (i.e. a weekly or bi-weekly video or webinar with the most important updates).

Remember that these communications cannot only be “one way” to be effective. Request feedback and make sure team members - at all levels - feel comfortable asking questions of senior leaders.

Update and Rebuild Your Training Programs to Focus on Health and Safety

“Covid-clean” is here to stay, or is at least around for the long term, so a new training program should be developed for all personnel returning to the office. This could include the following:

  • Ways employees can stay healthy and safe and limit exposure
  • Proper hygiene protocols should be followed
  • How and when to clean workspaces and personal items
  • What employees should expect when they walk in the door
  • Where employees can seek help, including health, disability, and emotional assistance
  • When updates will be communicated and where to go for more information

Revise Testing and Health Policies and Procedures

Before employees return to your facility, you should also make sure your employees understand any new testing and health policies and procedures that have been implemented. Your facility may require screenings or self-assessments as part of daily operations. These may include:

  • Baseline COVID-19 testing for all personnel returning to the facility
  • Regular COVID-19 testing for a sample of the population at ongoing intervals
  • Procedures to follow if the employee was exposed to COVID-19 or is feeling symptomatic
  • Having employees attest to their health on a daily basis
  • Update policies for PPE (including proper use training, mask requirements, disposal, etc.)
  • Develop a formal procedure and communications process for potential infection or outbreak onsite
  • Onsite temperature checking systems upon entry, including thermal solutions
  • Revised access for employees, to account for occupancy limits and access times – this information can be used for exposure or contact tracing purposes.

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Establish Protective Measures to Provide a Safe Environment

You are responsible for the safety of your employees, on-site contractors, and visitors. In fact, their well-being should be your first priority.

You should establish measures that include requiring masks or face coverings, social distancing, and regular sanitizing.

As you continue to identify risks, take measures to protect building occupants and visitors.

Here are areas in your facility where the highest risk of exposure can exist:

  • Bathrooms: use automation, floor controls, or stoppers to hold doors open
  • Cafés: use delivery-to-desk runners, require scheduled reservations for small groups for dine-in, limit staff numbers, and request health screening for staff
  • Elevators: use floor mats to show occupants where to stand, install sanitation stations outside the elevator on each floor and limit the number of occupants allowed on the elevator
  • Gyms: limit the number of individuals that are allowed in the gym, require reservations to be made to schedule gym use, or close the gym
  • Kitchens: install a sanitation station with wipes, have cleaning staff disinfect kitchen areas regularly, and limit the number of occupants permitted in the area
  • Social spaces: require reservations to schedule social areas for small groups, limit the number of individuals allowed in the area at any time, mark floors/tables for ease in social distancing
  • Entry areas or lobby: stagger employee schedules so everyone does not arrive and leave at the same time, establish one way in – one way out processes, arrange for curbside drop off of packages and deliveries, and have employees and vendors attest to their health or complete an assessment form before entering, install a sanitation station to be used upon entry
  • High-use areas (print areas, supply closets, filing cabinets, etc.): use a scheduling system so people to do gather in these areas at the same time, establish a single person in charge of these areas to pick up prints or collect supplies and distribute them, require cleaning and disinfecting of these areas multiple times a day

There will also be many areas with medium risk of exposure, while they will require less attention, there will still need to be processes established:

  • Hallways: make all hallways one-way so occupants do not come face-to-face
  • Offices: request closed doors for personal offices with a limit of one person per office
  • Stairways: make stairwells one-way and hang signs reminding occupants about social distancing rules, place sanitation stations on each floor
  • Parking areas and perimeter: stagger employee schedules so the number of people coming and going is limited, establish certain entrance and exit doors, and use walkway markings to establish a socially distanced queue

To grow in this new climate, a strategy for resiliency relies on keeping your employees healthy, safe, and engaged so that you can retain the best talent and maintain productivity.

We recognize that these are challenging times and that policies and procedures will change. If you need help, Flagship can help you reopen your facility responsibly. Our PUREClean service program provides a four-pronged approach that will help you protect employees in their workplace now and into the future.

Email a facilities expert today and get the help you need.