New York Forward Business Safety Plan
Due to COVID-19, New York now requires businesses to make a safety plan to prevent the spread of the virus. NY does not require the plan to be submitted, but there is a monetary penalty for not having one on-site if an inspector comes by to check.
Plan Purpose and OverviewCOVID-19 changed much in our world and especially in the business world. The primary changes affecting most businesses are the social distancing and enhanced sanitation requirements (frequent hand sanitizing and face masks). These new rules have been widely accepted across the medical community as effective methods to greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19, and that reduction is necessary to ending the pandemic and moving forward in business and in life.
To ensure that the business community is successful in reducing the spread of the virus, New York requires businesses to have a protocol or office policies geared toward minimizing the threat of COVID-19. This gets New York one business closer to the end of the pandemic. One business equals all of its employees, customers, and associates. New York is the business capital of the world and thus businesses are integral to New York moving forward, past the pandemic. The keys to the safety plan are in: 1) People; 2) Places; and 3) Process.
PeopleSocial Distancing is one of the most effective and proven methods of preventing COVID-19 spread. This is also one of the biggest challenges to any New York business adjusting to "COVID Culture" or new regulations in response to the pandemic. Many businesses thrived on the high-volume nature of New York and now, they have to limit that volume dramatically. Some may view these restrictions as the government forcing businesses to cut their own legs off, but the key to success in this is seeing the end: these restrictions are temporary and their duration wholly depends on how well people follow these new policies. To be open to the public at all is a blessing that shouldn't be wasted.
Enforce social distancing; people will trust you and you can stay open for more customers. Six feet apart is the general rule, as well as limiting the number of people allowed inside. What you won't immediately see on your bottom-line is the value of people's trust in your business; that will come later if you adhere to the safety plan.
Compliance with these safety protocols may involve changing the way you do business to some extent. You may need to install entry barriers like doorbell locks; you could install place markers to let customers know how far apart they should be; and you could create designated paths or areas for certain aspects of your business to keep people from interacting as much as they used to.
The best way to enforce social distancing is probably to integrate technology in your business as much as possible. There are many free tools that can be used for office messaging and work collaboration. This pandemic is temporary but the future is forever. The sooner you get online, the better off you will be.
PlacesBusinesses should also ensure that workspaces have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). The most prominent form of PPE is face masks. Employers should ensure that employees have PPE available and that the business has enough PPE supply to last for at least one month. The main reason for that quantity is experience with PPE shortages from early in the pandemic. There was a time when State governments and even nations were low on PPE and had to be on an international waiting list for shipments. Be smart and have enough to last an international shortage or a lapse in purchasing.
Businesses should have a regular PPE purchasing schedule to ensure that inventory is never exhausted. Other examples of PPE that should be found regularly throughout a business are: hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, various cleaning products, and, ideally, plexiglass dividers where appropriate and possible.
The workplace must be professional but now it must also be clean and hygienic. There should be regular cleaning and a cleaning log kept up to date to ensure compliance with the safety plan. Businesses should designate certain employees to manage the various aspects of the safety plan such as the cleaning log and PPE inventory.
Assigning different employees to different aspects of the plan ensures that no one is overwhelmed and minimizes the chance of something being overlooked. This network of responsibility also facilitates communication conducive to the safety plan. If PPE is running low, there is a specific person that must be told and that creates a record and chain of communication in which multiple people are aware that more PPE is needed. That goes for cleaning logs and keeping track of who is in the workplace. The most practical method to ensure compliance would be to establish point-persons for specific tasks and an information funnel whereby all employees know who to contact immediately regarding certain issues and then that contact will pass the information on up to whoever else needs to know.
Businesses should enact an overarching communication line that can be illustrated as a flow chart. This becomes important if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Everyone should know who to call if they test positive, and those people should know who to call after and so on. Simultaneous to the information flow must be decontamination. The communication chain should eventually reach the person in charge of ensuring the workplace is clean and sanitized. That person should know to immediately sanitize any infected employee's work area. A record of this cleaning should be made immediately.
The work place must be set up for success, and key to that success here is a safe and clean place to work. Communication also leads to much success in life, including preventing the spread of COVID-19.
ProcessThe people in the places must follow the process and must be consistent or else this is all for nothing; business will continue to suffer. Social distancing, PPE, and communication must become regular business practices, but preventing COVID-19 is always the goal. Setting up people and places for success is good defense and a good foundation for the whole plan, which requires good offense.
Businesses should conduct health screenings: temperature checks at the door, COVID-19 questionnaires, and, ideally, regular COVID-19 testing. The best scenario is that all the social distancing and PPE is unnecessary and even superfluous because the business kept COVID-19 out of the workplace altogether. However, our knowledge of this virus and its spread is constantly updating, so health screenings should never be the only aspect of a safety plan. Health screenings are offense; if the virus gets through the door then the defense must be there and must be ready. The virus has a hard time spreading if people social distance and use PPE. If the virus does manage to spread, it can't spread much if people are quickly made aware that extra cleaning and quarantining is necessary.
A plan and procedure must be in place in case an employee or customer tests positive. This plan should include cleaning, communication, and quarantining. Hopefully, that plan will never need to be used, but having the plan in place will make things much easier if it comes to it.
ConclusionA business safety plan must be made and it must be consistently carried out. Every business is different and needs one tailored to realistically fit their business model. Certain methods can be used across industries such as what is written above and spacing out client appointments and hiring third party cleaning companies to regularly clean the work space. If something helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and it doesn't hurt business, then it's probably a good idea and should be part of the plan.
Every piece of this plan and every business in New York is a brick and pillar in building the path out of the pandemic and into prosperity. The sooner a plan is implemented and the more effectively it is carried out, the sooner New York business can thrive again.