Prepare Your Workplace for Business During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Prepare Your Workplace for Business During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Running your facility during the COVID-19 outbreak not only means having operations ready for day-to-day use, but also establishing new workspace layouts and practices to provide your employees a safe environment to work in.

The following is sourced from American Industrial Hygiene Association’s backtoworksafely.org and the Center for Disease Control. Refer to these sources for more information, including guidelines on specific business types like retail and industrial.

General Office Space Configuration

The CDC recommends a social distance of 6 feet between people to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The AIHA recommends the following steps when reconfiguring your workspace:

  • Review floorplans to remove or reconfigure seats, workstations and other furniture as needed to preserve social distancing guidelines.
  • Reconfigure workstations so that employees do not face each other or establish partitions if facing each other cannot be avoided.
  • Temporarily remove, or deter use of, high-touch amenities like, coffee makers, water coolers, and bulk snacks and replace them with alternatives.
  • Consider using signage to deter use of amenities.
  • If vending machines are used, provide and require cleaning and disinfectants to wipe down after each use.
  • Reduce tasks that require large amounts of people to be in one area.
  • Encourage employees to use virtual meeting tools in lieu of in-person meetings whenever possible, even when participants are in the same location.

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Restrooms

Because restrooms are high traffic locations with many high-touch components, special care should be taken to clean frequently and encourage employees to mitigate the spread of germs. The AIHA recommends:

  • Doors to multi-stall bathrooms should be able to be opened and closed without touching handles if possible.
    • Place a trash can nearby if door cannot be opened without touching handle for employees to discard paper towels after opening door.
  • For single bathrooms, provide signage and materials (trash cans and paper towels) to encourage use when opening door.
  • Place signs indicating toilet lids should be closed before flushing.
  • Place signs asking employees to wash hands before and after using the restroom.
  • Provide paper towels and disconnect or tape-off hand air dryers.
  • Double efforts to keep bathrooms clean and properly disinfected.

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Conference Rooms

By definition, conference rooms are places where people gather and interact. Social distancing and disinfecting best practices should be employed when it is necessary to meet. The AIHA recommends:

  • Encourage employees to use virtual meeting tools in lieu of in-person meetings whenever possible, even when participants are in the same location.
  • Conference rooms that are used should be disinfected on a daily basis at minimum.
  • When in-person meetings are necessary, disinfectant wipes or spray should be left in each conference room and employees encouraged to wipe down all surfaces and equipment touched.
  • Limit in-person participants so that social distancing guidelines can be maintained.
  • Conduct meetings in a quick manner, discouraging any lingering or socializing.

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Lobby and Common Areas

Common areas and lobbies are places where employees and guests congregate and interact. Take steps to mitigate both as you reopen your business.  The AIHA recommends:

  • Consider eliminating reception seating areas and requesting that guests phone ahead or install a plastic partition at the reception area.
  • Common areas (e.g., lobbies, security desks, reception desks) should be cleaned and disinfected at least once a day
  • Regulate use of common areas with signage that clearly state maximum capacity and social distancing guidelines.
  • Provide cleaning supplies and disinfectant for employees and guests to utilize before and after they use common spaces.
  • Encourage employees and guests not to linger in common areas and lobbies.
  • Ask guests to phone ahead prior to their arrival to limit the amount of time they are in your facility.

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Kitchens

Kitchens and breakrooms are essential areas in many workplaces. Take steps to minimize traffic and use and encourage social distancing best practices and properly clean when use of the space is necessary. The AIHA recommends:

  • Kitchen areas should be cleaned and disinfected at least once a day.
  • Consider temporarily restricting use of some high-touch amenities such as coffee machines, ice machines that utilize a hand scoop, and non-disposable silverware.
  • If silverware and dishware is used, they should be cleaned in a dishwasher to help ensure cleaning and disinfection.
  • Water/beverage faucets that require employees to operate by hand, coffee machines (if used), ice machines and refrigerator handles should be disinfected at least 3 times a day.
  • Congregating in kitchen areas should be discouraged through overall workplace guidelines and signage in the physical space.

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Ventilation + Non-COVID-Related Dormant Building Issues

There can be many issues that arise from a facility being dormant for an extended period of time. Proper ventilation also plays an important part in mitigating the spread of germs and viruses.

See pages 4–6 of the AIHA’s Reopening: Guidance for General Office Settings guidance document for more information on addressing these issues.

 

This Guide is not intended to provide legal advice and it should not be considered or relied upon as such. Companies are encouraged to consult an attorney for legal advice relating to reopening.

Resources: American Industrial Hygiene Association’s Reopening: Guidance for General Office Settings and backtoworksafely.org plus the Center for Disease Control.