The COVID-19 pandemic has likely altered how you conduct business, with many restaurants shifting to curbside pickup or delivery, and retailers moving sales online. As you prepare to restore regular operations or reopen, it is important to have a business and safety plan that you can adapt to help you succeed in the “new normal.” As you are developing overall COVID-19 response efforts, work to help reduce risk through PATH – Plan, Act, Train, Health. These core principles can help you to ensure your business is operating safely in today’s changing environment.

Employee & Customer Safety

Make sure you review and understand any local or state requirements related to reopening your business, including occupancy restrictions or other social distancing requirements.

Review your operations with a focus on implementing enhancements to the procedures as needed to address evolving COVID-19 challenges. Inform your customers of your efforts to help reduce concerns. Conduct a facility wide inspection to determine any changes that need to be made, such as modifications to customer seating or booths, employee/customer interaction locations such as reception areas, and kitchen/service areas.

You should also be aware of customer concerns and consider coordinating social distancing measures, such as table spacing, eliminating customer self-serve options, limiting bar seating, limiting waiting areas, and using disposable and/or web-based menus or even disposable utensils and other service items.

Retail and restaurant businesses may also want to consider limiting the number of customers admitted on premises at any one time or changing the way customers can sample products, such as cosmetics or food.

If offering for your customers, measures should be taken to minimize the risk of slips, trips and falls. Inspect the curbside areas for potential hazards and make necessary repairs or place signs or cones as needed. Encourage employees to wear bright or reflective clothing. Make sure the pickup area is well lit and has designated parking areas that don’t require employees to cross roads or stand in traffic.

Additional health and safety measures, such as providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as  gloves and face coverings, and adhering to social distancing requirements, may be required by local health departments. Hand hygiene should be encouraged through frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

Consider a process for wellness checks as employees return to work, which may include temperature checks before entering the workplace. You may also need to develop or update your employee handbook to include sick employee protocols. Reopening might include hiring new employees, some of whom may require training to avoid on-the-job injury. Similarly, consider retraining existing employees to help them reacclimate to safe working practices.

On-site Vendor Safety

Vendors play a critical role in supporting your business, but they can also be a potential source of exposure to SARs-CoV-2, commonly known as coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19. Develop formal procedures regarding when and how incoming deliveries are received. Consider establishing an area that vendors may enter and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.

Incoming goods may be a potential source of exposure. Establish procedures for sanitizing the packaging following best practices as stipulated in Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) guidelines. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds after handling these packages.

Consider limiting contractors and vendors who have access to your facility. It will be important to establish ADA/HIPAA-compliant procedures, especially for individuals displaying signs of illness or with symptoms common to COVID-19 infection.

Also consider whether your procedures should require PPE for contractors or vendors while on-site.

Delivery Safety

Set up disinfection procedures for the vehicles. Disinfect after each shift or when switching drivers. Equip each vehicle with a supply of disinfecting solutions for cleaning high-touch areas, as well as hand sanitizer, face coverings and gloves for drivers.  Make sure cleaning and disinfection materials are compatible with the surfaces being treated.

For business deliveries, communicate with your customers early, before the actual delivery. Ask about changes to physical controls at locations where you make deliveries or if there have been changes to unloading and delivery procedures. When making home or business deliveries, limit in-person contact. Arrange for a drop-off location to minimize exposure to others.

Supply Chain Considerations

It is quite possible that some of your vendors will be running at limited capacity or unavailable. Consider the following to help ensure you have the products needed to run your business:

  • Reconnect with your vendors to confirm that they are back up and running. Also confirm that they can supply adequate products in a timely fashion to meet customer demands.
  • Consider sourcing new vendors, if necessary. Be sure any new vendors meet your vendor supply criteria (e.g., quality standards).
  • Engage your legal counsel to review contracts established with new vendors to ensure that you are effectively leveraging risk transfer strategies. 

Prepare Your Facility for Reopening

As you prepare to reopen your business, it’s important to prepare your facility as you ramp back up.

  • If your store or restaurant was closed and unoccupied for seven-days or more due to COVID-19, the CDC recommends completing normal routine cleaning and disinfecting procedures. If operations have continued under a limited basis, it is recommended to complete additional cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

Fleet and Driver Safety

With a possible increase in delivery demand, additional drivers may be needed. Make sure all your drivers are qualified by conducting motor vehicle record checks with evidence of an acceptable record, and a minimum of five years’ driving experience. Reinforce the importance of safe driving guidelines and avoid making delivery promises to your customers that encourage employees to speed. Prohibit mobile device use and other distractions while driving and require drivers to use only hands-free navigation to keep distractions to a minimum. You should also prohibit or restrict passengers.

For commercial drivers who were furloughed or laid off, review the hiring requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to determine if new applications or drug and alcohol testing are required.  

Carefully review your staffing levels as your operational pace increases. While it may be tempting to try to do more with fewer drivers, over time, fatigued drivers can lead to an increase in motor vehicle crashes and workplace injuries.