Due to COVID-19, every business must make a safety plan to prevent the spread of the virus. NY does not require the plan to be submitted. But there is a monetary penalty for not having one on-site if an inspector comes by to check.
Business Safety Plan Purpose and Overview
COVID-19 drastically changed our world. These changes led to social distancing and enhanced sanitation (frequent hand sanitizing and face masks). The pandemic’s impact on business was just as severe. Government ordered shutdowns and restrictive regulations created new obstacles to every New York business. But these obstacles are necessary. The medical community has widely accepted these new rules as effective methods to greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19. That reduction is necessary to ending the pandemic and moving forward in business and in life.
New York law now requires a business safety plan, protocol or office policies geared toward minimizing the threat of COVID-19. This ensures that the business community is successful in reducing the spread of the virus. This also gets New York one business closer to the end of the pandemic. One business equals all of its employees, customers, and associates. New York is the business capital of the world and thus businesses are integral to New York moving forward, past the pandemic. The keys to the safety plan are in: 1) People; 2) Places; and 3) Process.
People: Employees & Customers
Social Distancing is one of the most effective and proven methods of preventing COVID-19 spread. This is also one of the biggest challenges to any New York business adjusting to “COVID Culture” and new pandemic laws. Many businesses thrived on the high-volume nature of New York. Now, they have to limit that volume dramatically. Some may inevitably view these restrictions as the government forcing businesses to cut their own legs off. The key to success in this is seeing the end: these restrictions are temporary. Their duration wholly depends on how well people follow these new policies. To be open to the public at all is a blessing that a business shouldn’t waste.
Enforce social distancing. People will trust you and you can stay open for more customers. Six feet apart is the general rule, as well as limiting the number of people allowed inside. You won’t immediately see the value of people’s trust on your bottom-line. That will come later if you adhere to the safety plan.
Compliance with these safety protocols may involve changing the way you do business to some extent. You may need to install entry barriers like doorbell locks; you could install place markers to let customers know how far apart they should be; and you could create designated paths or areas for certain aspects of your business to keep people from interacting as much as they used to. Enforcement is the key to success here.
The best way to enforce social distancing is probably to integrate technology in your business as much as possible. There are many free tools that can be used for office messaging and work collaboration. This pandemic is temporary but the future is forever. The sooner you get online, the better off you will be.
Places: Business Space
Businesses should also ensure that workspaces have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). Face masks are the most prominent form of PPE. Employers should ensure that employees have PPE available and that the business has enough PPE supply to last for at least one month. The main reason for that quantity is experience with PPE shortages from early in the pandemic. There was a time when State governments and even nations were low on PPE and had to be on an international waiting list for shipments. Be smart and have enough to last an international shortage or a lapse in purchasing.
Businesses should have a regular PPE purchasing schedule to ensure that inventory is never exhausted. Other examples of PPE that should be found regularly throughout a business are: hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, various cleaning products, and, ideally, plexiglass dividers where appropriate and possible. Workspaces will look different and these changes could get expensive. It’s therefore wise to imagine these changes as permanent alterations.
The workplace must be professional. Now it must also be clean and hygienic. There should be regular cleaning or sanitizing; daily is ideal. Businesses must also maintain a cleaning log to ensure compliance with the safety plan. Businesses should designate certain employees to manage the various aspects of the safety plan, such as the cleaning log and PPE inventory.
Assigning different employees to different aspects of the plan ensures that no one is overwhelmed and minimizes the chance of something being overlooked. This network of responsibility also facilitates communication that is conducive to the safety plan. If PPE is running low, there is a specific person that must be told. That creates a record and chain of communication that notifies multiple people that the business needs more PPE. That goes for cleaning logs and keeping track of who is in the workplace. The most practical method to ensure compliance would be to establish point-persons for specific tasks and an information funnel whereby all employees know who to contact immediately regarding certain issues and then that contact will pass the information on up to whoever else needs to know.
Set For Success
Businesses should enact an overarching communication line that can be illustrated as a flow chart. This becomes important if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Everyone should know who to call if they test positive, and those people should know who to call after and so on. Simultaneous to the information flow must be decontamination. The communication chain should eventually reach the person in charge of ensuring the workplace is clean and sanitized. That person should know to immediately sanitize any infected employee’s work area. A record of this cleaning should be made immediately.
The work place must be set up for success, and key to that success here is a safe and clean place to work. Communication also leads to much success in life, including preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The people in the places must follow the process and must be consistent or else this is all for nothing. Business will continue to suffer. Social distancing, PPE, and communication must become regular business practices. But, preventing COVID-19 is always the goal. Setting up people and places for success is good defense and a good foundation for the whole plan, which requires good offense.
Businesses should conduct health screenings. For example, temperature checks at the door, COVID-19 questionnaires, and, ideally, regular COVID-19 testing. The best scenario is that all the social distancing and PPE is unnecessary and even superfluous because the business kept COVID-19 out of the workplace altogether. However, this is unlikely. We are constantly learning more about this virus and its spread. So, health screenings should never be the only aspect of a safety plan. Health screenings are just offense. If the virus gets through the door then the defense must be there and be ready. The virus struggles to spread when people social distance and use PPE. If the virus does manage to spread, it can’t spread much if people are quickly made aware that extra cleaning and quarantining is necessary.
A business must put in place a plan and procedure in case an employee or customer tests positive. This plan should include cleaning, communication, and quarantining. Hopefully, that plan will never need to be used, but having the plan in place will make things much easier if it comes to it.
Business Safety Plan Final Thoughts
A business must make a safety plan and consistently carry it out. Every business is different and needs a tailored plan that realistically fits their business model. Certain methods, however, are effective across industries. This includes what is written above and also spacing out client appointments and hiring third party cleaning companies to regularly clean the work space. If something helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and it doesn’t hurt business, then it’s probably a good idea and should be part of the plan. Legal guidance would also help for this new aspect of business law.
Every piece of this plan and every business in New York is a brick and pillar in building the path out of the pandemic and into prosperity. The sooner a plan is implemented and the more effectively it is carried out, the sooner New York business can thrive again.