As COVID-19 continues to have an unprecedented effect on daily life, many business owners are looking forward to a return to normalcy. However, even when stay-at-home orders are lifted and nonessential businesses are allowed to resume operations, there’s a lot for organizations to consider before they reopen. Many of these considerations are workplace specific and could be more involved, depending on the industry you operate in.
To protect your customers and employees, it’s important for your organization to conduct due diligence before reopening. Topics should include:
Determining When to Reopen
When some businesses are allowed to reopen, business owners may question how to know when it can and should reopen. The following are two best practices to keep in mind:
- Review guidance from state and local governments. COVID-19 impacts states and regions in different ways. It’s critical to understand and review all relevant state and local orders to determine if and when your business is allowed to reopen.
- Understand the risks. If and when the government allows all businesses to reopen, that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat to your operations. Further, some businesses may have greater COVID-19 exposures than others, underscoring the importance of performing a thorough risk assessment before reopening. Prior to conducting a risk assessment, it’s important to review guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state and local agencies, and industry associations, as well as your local health department. More information on conducting a risk assessment can be found below.
- Seek the expertise of legal, insurance and other relevant professionals.
Conducting a Risk Assessment
Safely restarting your business won’t be as simple as unlocking the front door. Before reopening, your business should perform a risk assessment to determine when the right time is and what steps must be taken.
While the complexity of risk assessments will differ from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:
1. Identify risks/hazards. Your business needs to think critically about your exposures, particularly if an infected person has been in your facility(ies). When identifying risks/hazards, perform a walkthrough of the premises, paying particular attention to high-risk areas (e.g., breakrooms and other areas where people may congregate). It’s also important to consider what tasks employees are performing and whether or not they are especially exposed to COVID-19 risks.
2. Determine who may be harmed and how. Identify the populations of your workforce who are exposed to COVID-19 risks and in what situations. Make note of high-risk individuals (e.g., staff members who meet with customers, individuals with preexisting medical conditions, etc.).
3. Assess risks. Analyze those risks to determine potential consequences. For each risk facing your business, you’ll want to determine:
- How likely is this particular risk to occur?
- What are the ramifications should this risk occur?
When analyzing your risks, consider potential financial losses, compliance requirements, employee safety, business disruptions, reputational harm and other consequences.
4. Control risks. Consider ways to manage these business risks. There are a variety of methods you can use, including prevention, avoidance and risk transfer. For COVID-19, control measures could include cleaning protocols, work-from-home orders and mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) usage.
5. Monitor results. Risk management is an evolving process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness, continually reassess and adjust as necessary. Remember, COVID-19 risks facing your business will change over time.
While resuming operations following the COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a daunting task, businesses don’t have to go it alone. To help with this process, organizations can seek the help of their insurance professionals to determine what actions they need to take to ensure their business reopens smoothly. To learn more, contact your local risk and insurance professional or a member of our team today.