Managing Business and Human Health – COVID-19
16th March 2020
How are you managing the health of your business, and it’s employees as COVID-19 in Canada escalates in it’s risk level? If your business was shut down for the next 8-12 weeks, what does that look like for you?
Preparing For Shutdowns
There are serious implications for both business, the economy, and obviously our health. Just like with humans, there will be some businesses and organizations that are more at risk than others. Some with underlying conditions may find it more difficult to withstand the challenging conditions COVID-19 brings economically. Some businesses may slow, some may temporarily shut, and some may close permanently with even minor disruptions.
So with everything that’s being done to focus on human health, let’s consider the link between business and human health. First and foremost, what is your organization doing to manage the health of it’s staff? Considerations:
- Are you in a high risk environment? As I’ve mentioned, being in Vancouver has higher risk than Tofino based on known and confirmed cases of COVID-19, the likelihood of staff being infected and effecting the business will differ in those cases
- What is the risk to your organization? The Queensland Government in Australia has a guide to assessing Pandemic Risk for business
- Did you start to take early precautions? Have you attempted to isolate staff? Can you create and enforce larger distances between desks, offices, work areas?
- If you deal with the public, can you screen and create space barriers? Tape a line as a barrier for customers to stand behind that’s 2 meters or 6.5 feet from front desks and screen the patient before they approach. Ask if they are experiencing a dry cough or fever prior to serving.
- You know your organization best, get some key staff together, and discuss where the risks are, what controls can be put in place, for maintaining staff health and also for maintaining business health
- Do you have a business continuity plan? What if there is a mandatory shut down of your business. What actions can you put in place to reduce the risk to your bottom line? See the Canadian Chambers of Commerce Article for more on this
- What if your business can’t shut down because it provides an essential product or service? How do you maintain staffing levels with minimal risk to staff?
- Organizations like the Salvation Army, and others that provide support to those at risk are essential to those in need, but also at a high risk of exposure. Organizations like these have exposure control plans which are essential to reducing exposure to pathogens, see the BC Municipal Safety Associations overview for more information
- Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work, have you considered and discussed this with your staff?
- Read this CBC article for more thoughts on employee and employer considerations
The above considerations are some aspects of this pandemic environment that need to be considered for businesses. There are a wide number of solutions available for many businesses that can allow them to stay active.
One of the first is taking this seriously, and applying the 3 golden rules:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your face
- Practice social distancing (no communal work lunches, don’t go out for lunch, avoid large face to face meetings)
With these in place and being managed effectively, there is a reasonable chance you can reduce the spread of infection in your workplace and maintain staff levels.
Next is applying what many organizations already have already considered, how do we increase our chances of staying open?
- Consider what financial resources are available, what does your cashflow look like?
- Is there an emergency loan available?
- How long can you manage with no income, little income, or reduced income?
- What are your businesses underlying conditions? The areas of weakness that may be exploited in this environment? Debt? Shortstaffed? How can you shore up?
- Do you have strategic partnerships that can support you, sponsors, community support, key clients?
- Defer work, or payments if possible
- Delayed bookings, if your business can start booking work further ahead, do so
- Internal housekeeping, if it’s quiet clean the storeroom, warehouse, catch up on accounting, marketing, all the things you’re behind on
- Set up community groups to discuss other local business challenges, this can be done by teleconference or videoconference
Maintaining the Work Environment
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting of the work place using products from this list
- Working from home
- Teleconferencing for group meetings (Zoom, Skype, GoTo Meeting etc.)
- Phone calls instead of face to face conversations
- Spacing out employees where possible to keep the 2 meter 6.5 buffer zone in place
- Send home any workers that are exhibiting symptoms to prevent the rest of your team becoming ill, it may be difficult to operate without staff
- Encourage use of holidays to stay home where possible
- Introduce rotating shift work with minimal staff in place at any given time to reduce exposure, but keep a skeleton crew running
- Have secondary team members ready to take over key positions where there is organizational risk without them
Support Local Businesses
These are just a few ideas from conversations I’ve had and articles I’ve read. You know your business better than anyone, start thinking about how to keep the business, and your staff healthy. This very likely will get worse, before better.
Support your community where you can, economic spending will help lessen the impact on local businesses, particularly the small local vendors, but don’t put them or yourself at risk….use the 3 golden rules, assess the risk, and be aware of your health and condition. Some considerations for local business support:
- The government is adapting its Work Sharing program to support local businesses during this event
- Does your local business have an online sales option? Can you purchase products or services digitally?
- If you don’t feel comfortable with extended visits, buy gift cards, you can support business now, spend later
- Gift cards can also easily be cleaned if you’re overly worried about contamination
- If you can order takeout and feel comfortable doing so, that helps
- Try to keep as much of your local spending habits in place as possible
- If you’re purchasing products, consider giving them a wipe with a disinfectant when you get home
If you suspect you may have symptoms call 811 and notify your organization. Do not go to the hospital. Keeping our medical staff and crews free to manage high risk and potentially fatal cases and injuries becomes more difficult when they’re assessing you, or sick themselves and in isolation. We need to flatten the curve, and keep exposures to a minimum.
If you’d like to discuss the management of risk for your business, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Scott 250 734 1373
Posted in: Safety Blog
Tags: business risk, contingency, COVID-19, epidemic, Infectiious disease, local business, Pandemic, risk management