Business guide to Coronavirus

COVID-19: Is your business ready to reopen safely?

After more than a month of non-essential business shutdowns, several Australian states and territories have announced plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in the coming weeks.

For the hospitality and retail sector, in particular, this is a welcome opportunity to resume trading – but it could also mean putting employees at risk. With community transmission of COVID-19 still a possibility, here are some of the key factors to consider in keeping employees and customers safe.

Increasing hygiene practices

Most businesses that have remained operational during the pandemic have implemented increased hygiene measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Before reopening, you should have a similar plan in place for preventing infection and ensure control policies and procedures are clearly communicated to all employees. This could include:

  • setting rules for how often employees must wash their hands
  • providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face masks and sneeze guards, if employees regularly interact with customers
  • providing ample cleaning and disinfection supplies and equipment
  • implementing a more frequent and in-depth cleaning schedule, especially of communal surfaces like countertops, handles and bathrooms
  • accepting cashless payments only
  • directing employees not to shake hands with or touch others if avoidable
  • directing employees to stay home if they feel unwell or have any symptoms related to COVID-19
  • setting aside time to train and supervise all employees on the new hygiene measures.

Minimising or staggering rostered employees

Where possible, scale back the number of rostered-on employees to help minimise close contact, or alter starting and finishing times to reduce the number of employees working at any one time. You could also consider:

  • putting a freeze on new hires (providing your business is sufficiently staffed)
  • reducing non-essential supplementary labour, such as contractors or freelancers
  • reducing employee hours
  • giving employees the opportunity to take leave if they’re not comfortable returning to work yet.

Also, keep in mind that some employees might not need to be on site. Administrative employees and other people who can do their jobs from home may be better off continuing to work remotely until we have a better understanding of post-lockdown transmission rates.

 

Keep up social distancing measures

Although the coronavirus restrictions are gradually being lifted, the government has directed people to continue social distancing – and businesses are no exception. Take precautions to ensure employees and customers remain at least 1.5m apart, such as:

  • limiting the number of customers allowed in your workplace at any one time
  • allowing no more than one person per four square metres
  • setting up tables, seating and waiting areas so people are spaced well apart
  • directing employees not to sit together in the lunchroom or break area.

Five final considerations

To make sure you’re minimising the risk of COVID-19, consider:

1. What risks will arise from resuming your usual business operations and how will you manage or mitigate these?

2. How will you need to scale back or alter your operations to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19?

3. How will you make sure your employees understand how to keep themselves and customers safe from exposure?

4. What procedures do you have in place to manage an exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19?

5. How will you review and evaluate your policies and procedures to ensure they are effective?

Work together with other key people in your business to develop a plan of action that addresses these questions and communicate it to all employees.

You may not be able to remove the risk of COVID-19 altogether. But with the right approach, you can get back to business while protecting your employees and customers.

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