With reopening imminent, ensuring a safer workplace

One might say that closing down companies to protect employees was the easy part in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. But reopening so-called non-essential businesses? Not so easy.

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In fact, the only certainty is that reopening will bring a multitude of HR challenges, as states and local municipalities begin easing restrictions, according to Amanda Czepiel, head of content at XpertHR, an employment compliance resource.

See also: Navigating the legal questions of workplace returns

As each individual state sets its own timeline for businesses to open, Czepiel says, employers should be aware that reopening guidelines may depend on where the company is located.

For employers operating in more than one state, she says, it’s especially important to understand the phased reopening dates and guidelines in the various states in which they operate. For example, Czepiel cites Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Wyoming as those without stay-at-home orders. However, Alabama’s “Safer-at-Home Order” is extended through July 3, and New Jersey’s was just lifted this week.

No matter the timeline or business location, reopening a business requires planning and preparation in order to provide a safe, supportive and productive work environment, Czepiel says.

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Perhaps the most challenging top-of-mind issue facing employers is the health and safety of employees. In order to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, certain cleaning and disinfecting protocols should be implemented and followed during the pandemic. Other reopening issues include COVID-19 employee testing, determining staffing needs and preparing a business-contingency plan.

“Before reopening, it’s imperative that businesses establish health and safety protocols, ensure operational readiness and reconfigure the worksite layout to comply with social-distancing guidelines,” Czepiel says. “Employers can’t get back to business without making sure employees are adequately protected.”

Finally, to help employers sort it it out, XpertHR is offering a resource guide, How to Create a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Return-to-Work Plan.

The guide offers a host of resources to ensure employers are complying with return-to-work guidelines, including advice on how to:

  • determine an organizational approach to reopening;
  • follow CDC and OSHA mandates;
  • reorganize the workplace setup;
  • develop a screening process;
  • safeguard employee privacy;
  • accommodate employees;
  • prepare for possible business disruptions; and
  • develop communication strategies.

To access the guide, click here.

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].