Keeping Workers Safe While Staying Open For Business

Shawnee Love   •   March 31, 2020

Two weeks of physical distancing is working but the road still stretches in front of us. Employers and employees across the country are coming to terms with their new normal although there is nothing normal about it.

I am quite hopeful because there are still so many employers delivering services and products.  To remain active, businesses that have been declared essential and those with work to do have introduced health and safety measures to protect workers and customers from contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus.  These initiatives enable employees to overcome their fears and come to work. I'd like to share some of the practices employers are using to keep their people safe:

  1. Remote work. While this isn't for everyone, I encourage employers to think carefully about whether they could issue a cell phone and call forward an office line for customer inquiries? Could they issue a laptop and upgrade employees' home internet in order to make remote work possible?
  2. Staggered shifts and workstations far enough apart to provide 2 m of physical distance. If this is an option, introduce more in-depth cleaning daily of kitchens, washrooms and items such as light switches and door handles which get touched by everyone.
  3. Worker education in handwashing, coughing/ sneezing in their sleeve, keeping their distance and what to do if someone gets too close. Best practices include:
    1. Staying in your vehicle or behind the protected buffer,
    2. Stepping away until you are outside the 2 m distance,
    3. Bringing the proximity to the person’s attention and asking the person to step back, and
    4. Calling a manager for assistance if nothing else works.
  1. Health Inquiries.  Some employers have stationed a staff member at the front door to inquire about the health of employees before they start work each day and about the health and behaviours of customers before permitting them to come in. Behaviours such as "Have you traveled out of the country or come into contact with someone who has within the last 14 days?"
  2. Door-to-Door or Door-to-Car Delivery. Offer delivery to the house or the customer’s car if they call ahead with their order.
  3. "Route Mapping". Limit doorway access such that one door is for entering and one door is for exiting. Tape out routes of shop / store entry, payment and exit routes so people can follow the routes and ensure flow as well as limit unnecessary closeness. Mark out physical distances on the floor such as lines behind which to stand or X marks the spot.

Clearly you wouldn’t do some of these things for just a few days, but this could last for a month or more. These measures are working for employers all around us and they could work for you too.

Bonus is that if you are staying open and have experienced a decrease in revenues, there are wage subsidies available to help you keep your people employed.  Up to 75% of wages being paid to a max of $847 per week which is way better than what employees make on EI and has the added benefit of continuing to serve your customers not to mention demonstrating commitment to your employees (particularly if you continue to pay the additional 25% of wages).

Here at LoveHR we continue to serve clients remotely via phone, email and of course video conference. We are drafting communications, helping clients build staffing plans, and providing coaching and support to employees and managers struggling to deal with all they are facing. We can be here for you too.