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  • Macalister Bali

Business As Usual?


For those who say the business of business is business, this pandemic and other global issues prove otherwise.  Even as societies and businesses race to reopen, the global pandemic still poses significant problems. Against this backdrop, leaders face the urgency and complexity of reopening their businesses. To outmaneuver uncertainty, reopening also requires a program of reinvention.


In the United States, there is only a loose correlation between disease prevalence and plans for reopening. Companies are planning different approaches, even based on the same underlying fact base. This implies that leaders across the public and private sectors should build learning and adaptation into their reopening plans from the start. Relevant lessons might come from other countries, other sectors, or from peers and competitors. Also keep in mind it is the duty of the business owners, CEO’s and upper management to make sure they follow local and countrywide guidelines.


Workplace Safety
  • A. Know the standards for the industry and jurisdiction (Federal, State, County, City)


  • B. State and county public health department orders impacting return to work

  • 1. The Public Health Department Orders – also known as "shutdown" "shelter in place" and "safer at home" orders – often include requirements for workers at "essential" businesses, even those that are not open to the public. Face coverings, hand washing, social distancing protocols, notices to employees, and workplace posters, are the most frequent.

  • 2. Determine which local public health department applies to the worksite. The health department order will determine specific responses required when there is a possible or actual COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. Local departments of public health in California, which are usually by county.

  • 3. Many cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, have public health orders as well.


  • C. COVID-19 mitigation plan

  • 1. Federal OSHA does not mandate a written transmission prevention plan specifically targeted at COVID-19. However, employers of workers with potential occupational exposures to COVID-19 (that is, working conditions that might cause transmission as opposed to community conditions that might cause transmission outside of the working environment) are expected to follow these practices:

  • a. Assess the hazards to which the workers may be exposed.

  • b. Evaluate the risk of exposure.

  • c. Select, implement, and ensure workers use controls to prevent exposure, including physical barriers to control the spread of the virus; procedures to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace (for example, social/physical distancing); and appropriate personal protective equipment, hygiene, and cleaning supplies.

  • d. These concepts are in line with usual occupational safety and health protocols that federal OSHA and the state-plan counterparts require employers to follow regarding any safety and health hazards to which workers are exposed. Their application in the context of COVID-19, however, likely calls for most employers to revise and enhance safety programs that existed prior to the pandemic outbreak.



  • D. Safety and health communications plan

  • 1. Employers are required not only to have an occupational safety and health program but must also be able to demonstrate that it is effective in practice, which means including a communication plan and creation of a safety culture. In relation to reopening their businesses, employers should strongly consider developing a communications plan around COVID-19 workplace safety that is more comprehensive and visible than usual, both to reinforce the importance of worker safety and to reassure employees and customers that the employer is taking it seriously and has a plan.


  • 2. Safety and health communication plan components may include:

  • a. Increased signage;

  • b. Employee safety meetings;

  • c. Safety training;

  • d. Periodic reminders concerning proper hygiene practices;

  • e. Auditing to make sure that safe distancing requirements are being observed; and

  • f. Prompt response to employee safety concerns.


  • E. Physical distancing

  • 1. Implement physical distancing requirements or guidelines that remain in existence on federal, state, and local levels. This may require:

  • a. Reconfiguring internal work spaces, traffic patterns, schedules, and staffing levels.

  • b. Flexible scheduling not only with regard to the workday (to reduce the number of employees present at any one time), but also to shift some workers to a different workweek that includes Saturdays or Sundays (when the worker might have had a Monday through Friday schedule previously).

  • c. Staggering break times.

  • d. Setting up job rotations so that each worker operates remotely one or two days a week (when possible), thus reducing the complement of on-site workers on any given day.


  • 2. Discourage employees from sharing equipment and devices and institute protocols for handling, cleaning, and sanitizing equipment that must be shared.


  • F. Physical barriers Consider erecting physical barriers and controlling the number of employees who can access a particular area or workspace.


  • G. Personal hygiene: hand-washing and hand sanitizer

  • 1. Remind workers (using posters, intranet sites, and other company communication channels) to frequently wash hands or, if soap and running water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • 2. Have adequate supplies of soap and alcohol-based hand rub available.


  • H. Screening/monitoring

  • 1. Most employers will voluntarily screen or be expected to screen employees in some fashion prior to initially restarting work.

  • 2. At a minimum, this will require notifying employees that they cannot come into work if they have symptoms of illness.

  • 3. Regularly monitor whether employees experience illness symptoms, for example, before each workday, throughout the day, or at some other interval.

  • 4. Temperature-taking is permitted but should assess the following:

  • a. Keep records to demonstrate effort to protect workforce/clients/vendors.

  • b. Records must be kept confidential under ADA and any state/local laws pertaining to employee medical records (this includes not letting employees see their co-workers' information, such as on a "sign-in sheet" record, and being careful that employees who register a fever are dealt with in a way that others in line hopefully will not automatically know they have a fever, such as by taking temperatures in private locations).

  • c. Processes should be designed or reviewed by someone competent to identify hazards to the temperature-taker(s) and employees' whose temperatures will be taken (i.e., someone with appropriate medical or scientific background).

  • d. Appropriate personal protective equipment must be used in the process.

  • e. Proper sanitizing procedures for equipment (if necessary) should be followed.

  • f. Employees who take the temperatures should be trained in the proper procedures (and the training needs to be documented).

  • g. Establish process for removing feverish employees and notifying exposed co-workers in the event employee tests positive.

  • h. The same general principles apply for COVID-19 testing.

  • i. Assess obligation to comply with the HIPAA.

  • j. Assess compliance with the CCPA.


  • I. Workplace cleaning and sanitizing

  • 1. More frequently and thoroughly clean and disinfect all work areas, surfaces, restrooms, common areas, and shared equipment.

  • 2. If the employer relies on in-house staff to conduct disinfecting and cleaning, the employer must ensure that such staff is qualified and properly trained to perform such services and have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning materials and supplies, and safety training, including familiarization with possible chemical hazards.

  • 3. If the employer relies on an outside contractor for such services, the employer will want the contractor to verify its competency and compliance with the foregoing practices.

  • 4. If the employer is a tenant, the employer should confirm with its landlord or the landlord's property manager that the level of custodial services will be tailored to the COVID-19 environment.


  • J. Personal protective equipment

  • 1. Assess the extent to which personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, facial shields, and other protective gear) is appropriate to the hazards a worker can be anticipated to encounter, while keeping in mind any government guidance or mandates regarding the preserving or reserving of certain kinds of equipment for medical and emergency personnel.

  • 2. The employer needs to be sure that it has adequate supplies of PPE to provide to workers and has trained workers on when and how to safely use PPE, when to change PPE, and how to dispose of PPE.


  • I. Workplace cleaning and sanitizing

  • 1. More frequently and thoroughly clean and disinfect all work areas, surfaces, restrooms, common areas, and shared equipment.

  • 2. If the employer relies on in-house staff to conduct disinfecting and cleaning, the employer must ensure that such staff is qualified and properly trained to perform such services and have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning materials and supplies, and safety training, including familiarization with possible chemical hazards.

  • 3. If the employer relies on an outside contractor for such services, the employer will want the contractor to verify its competency and compliance with the foregoing practices.

  • 4. If the employer is a tenant, the employer should confirm with its landlord or the landlord's property manager that the level of custodial services will be tailored to the COVID-19 environment.


  • J. Personal protective equipment

  • 1. Assess the extent to which personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, facial shields, and other protective gear) is appropriate to the hazards a worker can be anticipated to encounter, while keeping in mind any government guidance or mandates regarding the preserving or reserving of certain kinds of equipment for medical and emergency personnel.

  • 2. The employer needs to be sure that it has adequate supplies of PPE to provide to workers and has trained workers on when and how to safely use PPE, when to change PPE, and how to dispose of PPE.

  • 3. Be prepared for employees to request PPE in situations where the hazard analysis and best practice guidelines do not indicate that PPE is required.

  • 4. Consider allowing employees to utilize PPE for comfort or convenience reasons (i.e., employee relations) unless it would create an undue expense or business disruption, or if using the PPE would itself create a hazard (such as an improperly fitted N95 or other respirator mask).

  • 5. In some cases, an employee may request to use personal PPE in lieu of employer-provided PPE. Because such requests may require the employer to evaluate the efficacy and suitability of the substitute (including testing to be sure it is not contaminated), we generally discourage employers from allowing this option, absent specific government guidance to the contrary.


  • K. Clients, customers, and visitors

  • 1. We anticipate that there will likely be restrictions on the presence of clients, customers, visitors, or other non-employees both as an occupational safety and health requirement and a public health consideration. Obviously, many businesses (such as hospitality and retail) that are not currently operating can only reopen successfully if they are allowed to have customers or clients present in the work area. Other businesses may be able to reopen successfully with little or no physical presence of clients, customers, or visitors.

  • 2. Consequently, the guidelines and restrictions when members of the public or third-parties are present may vary by industry and occupation as well as geography. Nonetheless, it is a consideration that nearly every employer that is allowed to reopen will have to deal with in evaluating potential workplace hazards and designing and implementing practices to protect its employees from transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.


  • L. Training

  • 1. Consider implementing training for all supervisors on communicating and enforcing compliance with the above and how to deal with employee questions, including whether all questions should be directed to a specific resource or person for consistency.

  • 2. Document notices and trainings with employee acknowledgments even when not required by law, as evidence to combat claims of lack of safety.

Be prepared for employees to request PPE in situations where the hazard analysis and best practice guidelines do not indicate that PPE is required.

  • 4. Consider allowing employees to utilize PPE for comfort or convenience reasons (i.e., employee relations) unless it would create an undue expense or business disruption, or if using the PPE would itself create a hazard (such as an improperly fitted N95 or other respirator mask).

  • 5. In some cases, an employee may request to use personal PPE in lieu of employer-provided PPE. Because such requests may require the employer to evaluate the efficacy and suitability of the substitute (including testing to be sure it is not contaminated), we generally discourage employers from allowing this option, absent specific government guidance to the contrary.


  • K. Clients, customers, and visitors

  • 1. We anticipate that there will likely be restrictions on the presence of clients, customers, visitors, or other non-employees both as an occupational safety and health requirement and a public health consideration. Obviously, many businesses (such as hospitality and retail) that are not currently operating can only reopen successfully if they are allowed to have customers or clients present in the work area. Other businesses may be able to reopen successfully with little or no physical presence of clients, customers, or visitors.

  • 2. Consequently, the guidelines and restrictions when members of the public or third-parties are present may vary by industry and occupation as well as geography. Nonetheless, it is a consideration that nearly every employer that is allowed to reopen will have to deal with in evaluating potential workplace hazards and designing and implementing practices to protect its employees from transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.


  • L. Training

  • 1. Consider implementing training for all supervisors on communicating and enforcing compliance with the above and how to deal with employee questions, including whether all questions should be directed to a specific resource or person for consistency.

  • 2. Document notices and trainings with employee acknowledgments even when not required by law, as evidence to combat claims of lack of safety.



In conclusion, we are experiencing sudden and dramatic changes that emphasize the current precarious economic and social system. Too often efficiency and short-termism shaped our socio-political choices. We are observing continuous layoffs. People and their families appear as a line cost item in the income statements to delete. This is outrageous.





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