Reopening Your Workplace: Preparing Your Space, Safely

As restrictions loosen across the country, you may be ready for your employees to return to the workplace. Of course, there are various things you need to think about as your workers transition from remote work to working on location again. 

Before you open your doors, you’ll likely need to make a few changes to accommodate new health and safety guidelines in making sure your business adheres to compliance standards. 

In this post, we’re going to outline some tips and key considerations to keep in mind as you safely reopen your place of business. 

Developing a Workplace Safety Plan 

The first (and most important) step is to develop a workplace safety plan. Simply put, the workplace safety plan describes the steps you and your business are taking to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  

Depending on where your business is primarily located, you may have to follow different guidelines and regulations; be sure to check government guidelines so your safety plan is compliant and up-to-date. 

An effective plan includes items like: 

  • Screening protocols for employees and customers, if applicable 
  • Physical distancing guidelines in the workplace 
  • Mask or facial covering policies 
  • Hygiene protocols (i.e. how often surfaces or areas are being disinfected and cleaned) 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) being used in the workplace 
  • Plans to avoid overcrowding of people in small spaces 
  • Any other mitigating steps your business will take, like limiting open hours or reducing services offered 

Workplace Safety Plan Sample 

A workplace safety plan shouldn’t list overall goals: it needs to be actionable. 

It should list concrete, active details on what is being done and who is responsible for those tasks. 

A sample workplace safety plan could look something like this: 

  • General Manager: monitors news for any updates and communicates to the team when appropriate through approved channels 
  • GM: Screens employees as they enter the building. Employees who screen positive should return home and contact the appropriate health officials for next steps 
  • GM: Ensures masks, gloves, and other PPE are available to staff throughout the day and plexiglass barriers are in place; order new shipments weekly 
  • Assistant Manager: Disinfects the main customer transaction area after every interaction. Wipes down counters, disinfects customer touch pads 
  • AM: Keeps customer capacity to 25%; placing floor markers throughout the workplace so social distancing is maintained 

Keeping Employees Safe In The Workplace 

Beyond the basic responsibilities, part of keeping your employees safe in the workplace will require regular screenings and ensuring social distancing can be maintained.   

Screening Employees 

Depending on your place of business and the duties of your employees, you may be required to screen your employees daily for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.  

While it’s important to stay on top of this, encourage your employees to monitor their own symptoms; if they don’t feel well, or suspect they may have developed symptoms, ensure they get in touch with the right public health units for follow-up testing or assessments. 

And if they do carry those symptoms, ensure they don’t come into the workplace, as it compromises the safety of all other employees in the building. 

Maintaining Distance In The Workplace 

When social distancing measures need to be maintained between workers, it’s good practice to modify your spaces so employees can keep a space of 2 metres between themselves. Try to limit tools and equipment to one person to reduce further risks. If that’s not possible, disinfect items between uses.  

Common areas like break rooms and shared workspaces need to be disinfected between uses too; consider replacing items like coffee pots with single-use or no-touch alternatives, and leaving taped-off segments in shared workspaces to help maintain social distancing. 

What If An Employee Feels Sick? 

If an employee feels unwell, they’ll need to be sent home immediately. Depending on where your business is located, the employee will need to either be tested or complete an online assessment before being able to return to work.  

If an employee does test positive, you may be required to report it to the relevant health officials, especially if more than one employee in the workplace tests positive. Check with your business’ provincial or municipal government guidelines for how to properly follow the appropriate protocols. 

Keeping Customers Safe 

In addition to robust safety measures for your employees, a workplace safety plan should include any and all steps that keep your customers safe as well. 

This could include: 

  • Physical distancing signage; add markers where customers might gather, allowing them to keep a distance of 2 meters 
  • Plexiglass barriers for employee and customer interactions 
  • Supplying hand sanitizer at the entrance of your business establishment

Be sure to inform your customers about the changes happening to your business. Include a sign customers can read as they enter, and update your website, voicemail, or even email signatures to let people know what steps your workplace is taking to reduce transmission. These small steps will go far to give your customers peace of mind as they interact with your business. 

Limiting Customer Capacity 

Depending on guidelines, you may have to limit the number of people allowed into your workplace at a time.  

The measures you take to limit capacity will vary depending on your workplace and your business. 

For example, if your business normally accepts walk-in clients, consider implementing an appointment model – customers can only come in if they schedule a time slot ahead of time. This is a great way to control the number of people in your establishment at a time. 

Cleaning and Disinfecting The Workplace

Equipment, washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers; anything that’s available to the public should be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as necessary to maintain sanitary conditions. This is important when reducing transmissions. 

Keeping Everyone Safe

Your first priority as a business owner is to ensure you’re keeping everyone who enters your business establishment as safe as possible. These measures are extensive, but will go far in maintaining the safety of your workplace – for both employees and anyone else who visits your establishment. 

If you want to learn more about compliance policies, get in touch with our team. 

And if you’re a small to medium-sized business looking for help with compliance, check out HX. We don’t believe in cold, corporate HR. Our system not only keeps your business compliant, it can also help you with employment standard policies and provide violence and harassment training.