As you prepare your business to reopen for in-person interaction, it is important to stay up to date on local and state guidelines. This includes preparing your physical spaces to protect workers and reduce risk while serving customers.
Pre-reopening Cleaning and Sanitizing
For businesses where workspaces have been closed since the pandemic began, you’ll need to perform an overall cleaning and sanitation sweep before your staff returns. This provides a sort of clean slate before reopening.
Employers should evaluate each workspace to determine what kinds of surfaces and materials will need general cleaning and which will need further sanitation based on CDC guidelines. Make sure to provide aequate PPE and supplies to team members involved with sanitation, to ensure their safety when handling various cleaning solutions and to reduce exposure risk.
Low traffic surfaces and objects will just need normal routine cleaning with soap and water to remove dirt and germs.
Frequently touched surfaces and objects like faucets, light switches, and doorknobs need to be cleaned and disinfected. This means using an EPA-approved disinfectant, or alternative sanitation solutions (diluted bleach or 70% isopropyl alcohol) when the approved disinfectants are in short supply.
These measures are not only effective to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but also important in preventing exposure to hazards such as mold and other diseases.
Ongoing Cleaning and Sanitizing
Once you’ve done your initial cleaning and are open for business, it is important to regularly clean and sanitize as well.
Daily cleaning and sanitizing routines should be established. To make keeping track of these routines easier, consider a combination of pre-shift, mid-shift, and post-shift routines that include checklists for tasks, worksite maps as reference, photo capture to verify spaces are clean, and signature spaces for both employee and manager approval.
Proper protective equipment and sanitation supplies should be made available to every employee. This should include a combination of items, including:
- PPE (masks and gloves) and related training to ensure they are worn properly during every interaction with team members and customers;
- Cleaning supplies (bleach, disinfecting wipes, etc) to disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily;
- Disposable hygiene supplies (masks and wipes) for customers, easily available and stocked.
This will give both employees and visitors the right equipment to tackle sudden sanitation situations, reducing exposure risk and maintaining a clean workplace.
It is also vital to take extra disinfection steps if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. Be sure to follow CDC guidelines for additional sanitation based on if your business operates a 24-hour or overnight workspace.
Distancing and One-way Flow
In addition to cleaning and sanitation procedures, social distancing and building navigation guidelines are necessary when you have multiple people in a space at the same time.
Social distancing includes both keeping at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people and avoiding group gatherings (especially in enclosed or crowded spaces). Consider the following changes:
- Cancel gatherings of people (including meetings, conferences, and in-person events);
- Establish no-contact deliveries and pick-ups for customer orders;
- Rearrange desks and workspaces to reduce points of contact;
- Utilize digital conferencing or communication for essential meetings and employee training;
- Shift primary stocking activities to off-peak or after hours, when possible, to reduce contact with customers.
Post signage and floor markings to communicate new building and distancing protocols. This is especially vital for businesses with regular customer traffic, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, or anywhere there are small or narrow areas within the workspace. Use arrows on walls and floors to indicate one-way travel through a space, and taped lines to display required distance while waiting in line.
Barriers, Filters, and Guards
For certain situations and jobs, you may need to go even further to prepare your workspaces. Plexiglass shielding to protect cashiers, bank tellers, and other team members whose stations encounter high customer traffic may be necessary. You can also use this sort of shielding in manufacturing and production environments, creating barriers between employees and shielding assembly and processing lines.
Use additional physical barriers to encourage one-way flow in high traffic areas or limit the number of individuals that can be admitted within a space.
Implement touchless technology wherever possible, especially for hand sanitizer stations, garbage cans, and faucets/soap dispensers/hand dryers. This reduces points of contact for employees and visitors.
Proper filtration and well-maintained HVAC systems are another aspect of sanitation. You should consider the following changes or adjustments to your systems:
- Change your central air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass;
- Check filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed;
- Keep systems running longer hours, 24/7 if possible, to enhance air exchanges in the building space;
- Consider portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters.
The exact precautions and steps to prepare your workspace will vary based on your business and services, but the value in keeping your employees and customers safe remains the same.
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