As Texas businesses reopen, business owners and managers need to develop a plan to begin operating again while incorporating new safety guidelines for employees. Because COVID-19 is a new virus, it can be difficult for business owners to know how to keep employees safe from Coronavirus.
While customer and employee safety presents new challenges for businesses who are reopening, there are some steps that business owners and employers can take that are proven efficient at fighting against strains of the Human Coronavirus and harder-to-kill viruses.
At Alpha Decon, our goal is to be a resource for San Antonio and Austin businesses reopening after coronavirus closures. This guide, part of our business resource center, will help you to know how you can protect your employees from coronavirus and plan for a successful business reopening in our “new normal.”
Guide on How to Keep Employees Safe from Coronavirus
- Guide on How to Keep Employees Safe from Coronavirus
- 1. Create a Reopening Plan
- 2. Determine Your Employee Screening Policies & Legal Requirements
- 3. Clearly Communicate Sick Leave Policies
- 4. Make Modifications That Are Unique to Your Business
- 5. Schedule Regular Electrostatic Spray Sanitizing Service
- 6. Communicate What You’re Doing to Keep Your Employees Safe
- Alpha Decon Sanitizing Services Can Help Protect Your Employees from Coronavirus
When reopening your Texas business, you will need to consider a number of factors in order to keep employees safe from Coronavirus. Below is an outline of official recommendations from the CDC, the White House, and the state of Texas’ Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas. There is also Coronavirus reopening information available on the Bexar County website for San Antonio businesses reopening and on the Travis County website for Austin businesses reopening.
Alpha Decon strives to make it easier for Central Texas businesses to reopen. We are compiling official recommendations from these trustworthy sources as an informational service only.
- If you need professional sanitizing advice, please don’t hesitate to call us at 866-623-0013.
- If you are looking for legal, business, or financial advice, we recommend reaching out to your local county or the state government or asking the chamber of commerce in your community to recommend other professionals for financial, human resources, and/or legal advice.
1. Create a Reopening Plan
Creating a reopening plan with guidelines and new operational procedures will help keep employees informed of the new policies, and allow them to serve customers safely. The CDC, World Health Organization, and the State of Texas have all emphasized how important it is for business owners to sit down and think critically about how they will change business procedures to keep employees safe from coronavirus – before reopening.
What To Include in Your Business Reopening Plan
Here are some of the things you should consider including in your reopening plan:
- How you will maintain social distancing between employees.
- If you will require masks or face coverings for employees, and if so, whether you will provide a mask or face covering for employees who do not have them.
- Whether you will have hand sanitizer or hand wipes available for employees during daily procedures and transactions.
- How you will source hand sanitizer, wipes, or masks while demand is high and supply is low.
- How you are going to handle employee sick leave and screening.
- If you will use physical barriers between employees and customers, such as plexiglass windows at cash registers or bars.
- If you will use physical barriers between employees, for example in an “open-plan” office layout.
- Whether you will need to hire new employees to help ensure that you can effectively enforce the maximum capacity and social distancing guidelines by having a greeter at the door.
- Evaluating the risk factors that are specific to your business:
- what are the high touch surfaces in your place of business, and can they be regularly disinfected?
- What equipment is shared between employees and how to disinfect it?
- Is it possible to make hallways one-way to avoid face-to-face contact in small spaces?
- Should you close spaces that tend to get more crowded than others, like bars or employee breakrooms?
- Do your sanitizing procedures need to be food-safe or not?
- How you will incorporate regular sanitization with effective cleaning chemicals into your operational procedures.
Get Help Creating a Reopening Plan that Protects Your Employees from Coronavirus
If you’re not sure where to start or how to create a reopening plan for your business or if you are having trouble identifying the areas and objects in your business that need regular disinfecting, bring in a professional. Our technicians are knowledgable and experienced at business disinfecting. We follow all CDC, WHO, and EPA guidelines and can help you to develop a sanitizing plan unique to your business and space that will help keep your employees safe from COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria.
If you need professional sanitizing advice or would like to schedule an appointment so we can help you to develop a business disinfecting services plan unique to your needs, please call us at 866-623-0013 or request a quote online.
2. Determine Your Employee Screening Policies & Legal Requirements
As a part of reopening protocols, some states are requiring employers to screen their employees for a number of different symptoms. On May 5th, the State of Texas released a “Minimum Standard Health Protocols” Checklist for all employers in the State of Texas. These minimum health protocol recommendations would apply to all San Antonio businesses and all Austin businesses, regardless of the industry they are in. You can find industry-specific guidelines on the State of Texas’ OpenTexas website.
State of Texas Employee Screening Recommendations
The following are the minimum recommended health protocols for all businesses choosing to operate in Texas, as outlined under the direction of Governor Abbott, with the advice of the Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, Attorney General, and Texas Comptroller, and released on May 5th.
The virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to others by infected persons who have few or no symptoms. Even if an infected person is only mildly ill, the people they spread it to may become seriously ill or even die, especially if that person is 65 or older with pre-existing health conditions that place them at higher risk. Because of the hidden nature of this threat, everyone should rigorously follow the practices specified in these protocols, all of which facilitate a safe and measured reopening of Texas. The virus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities. We should continue to observe practices that protect everyone, including those who are most vulnerable.Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, Open Texas Checklist for All Employers
Health protocols for your employees and contractors:
- Train all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
- Screen employees and contractors before coming into the business.
- Send home any employee or contractor who has any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
- Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
- Do not allow employees or contractors with new or worsening signs or symptoms listed above to return to work until:
- In the case of an employee or contractor who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to work when all three of the following criteria are met:
- at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications);
- and the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath);
- and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; or
- In the case of an employee or contractor who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and does not get evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, the individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to work until the individual has completed the same three-step criteria listed above; or
- If the employee or contractor has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to work before completing the above self-isolation period, the individual must obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis.
- In the case of an employee or contractor who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to work when all three of the following criteria are met:
- Do not allow an employee or contractor with known close contact to a person who is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19 to return to work until the end of the 14 day self-quarantine period from the last date of exposure (with an exception granted for healthcare workers and critical infrastructure workers).
- Have employees and contractors wash or sanitize their hands upon entering the business.
- Have employees and contractors maintain at least 6 feet of separation from other individuals. If such distancing is not feasible, other measures such as face covering, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness, and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
- If an employer provides a meal for employees and/or contractors, employers are recommended to have the meal individually packed for each individual.
- Consistent with the actions taken by many employers across the state, consider having all employees and contractors wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth). If available, employees and contractors should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
Health protocols for your facilities:
- If 6 feet of separation is not available between employees, contractors, and/or customers inside the facility, consider the use of engineering controls, such as dividers between individuals, to minimize the chances of transmission of COVID-19.
- Regularly and frequently clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables, chairs, and restrooms.
- Disinfect any items that come into contact with customers or employees.
- Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant readily available to employees, contractors, and customers.
- Place readily visible signage at the business to remind everyone of best hygiene practices.
- For employers with more than 10 employees and/or contractors present at one time, consider having an individual wholly or partially dedicated to ensuring the health protocols adopted by the employer are being successfully implemented and followed.
In addition to these minimum standards, employers may adopt additional protocols consistent with their specific needs and circumstances to help protect the health and safety of all employees, contractors, and customers.
Protocols on Keeping Employees Safe from Coronavirus & Civil Rights: Additional Considerations
While employee screening protocols are all intended to help employers keep employees and customers safe, it is important to stay up to date on screening procedures recommendations, as some require more careful considerations than others and the recommendations may change over time.
Employee Coronavirus Screening Controversies
One of the most contentious screening protocols for reopening after the Coronavirus crisis is the temperature check. In Texas, as in many states, guidelines have stated that any employee that has a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher should be sent home. If you have decided that temperature checks will be a part of your screening procedures, you will need to do so carefully, and here is why…
Employee Temperature Checks & ADA Laws
Because a temperature check is considered a medical examination, it is possible for an employee to file a suit against having their temperature screened under the ADA, which prohibits medical examinations unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
It may be argued that the Coronavirus crisis presents a special situation in which a temperature check is a business necessity, but tread carefully here, as there is no real statement (yet) that fully protects employers who decide to do temperature screenings.
Additionally, it is important to note that not every individual that has COVID-19 or is contagious for Coronavirus will have a fever, and not every individual with a fever has Coronavirus.
To help eliminate some of the uneasiness of temperature checks, it might be best to hire a third-party healthcare professional who can be present on-site to take temperatures and store data correctly. However, this still presents the issue that your employees are being required to have a medical examination that may not be seen as a necessity under the ADA.
Consider Letting Employees Self-Screen
You may want to consider allowing employees to take their own temperature before coming to work, although this may present the risk that an employee with a high fever will still come to work. This may provide protection again ADA lawsuits.
3. Clearly Communicate Sick Leave Policies
Allowing employees to self-screen before coming into work is best paired with a reminder about your paid sick leave policies.
Some employers may be required to provide employees with an additional two weeks of COVID-19 related paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This act added additional sick-leave provisions and paid leave requirements which are administered and enforced by the Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) through December 31, 2020.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights
Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business.
How to Communicate Screening and Sick Leave Policies
For Central Texas businesses that are just now reopening, business owners and/or managers may need to send emails or make phone calls to employees to notify them of any new screening procedures and/or changes to sick leave policies. If you’re sending emails, we recommend providing links to the Texas and federal government resources linked above so that employees can read more about why you’re making changes from an official source.
Once employees are coming into work, we recommend that you hang signs and/or posters communication any changes in your employee break rooms or public areas. You may also want to update your employee handbook to ensure that it includes current and updated information relevant to Coronavirus.
4. Make Modifications That Are Unique to Your Business
While all businesses will have to make some modifications to their day-to-day procedures (requiring masks, smaller capacity, etc.), some are coming up with very creative ways to cut down on face-to-face interactions and keep employees safe while doing their best to get back to more normal operations.
Examples of Unique Coronavirus Business Modifications
Some examples of unique business modifications include:
A parklet is a parking space that has been turned into an outdoor section of a restaurant, bar, or retail store. It allows employees to serve customers in an open-air setting, which is generally considered to be safer than an indoor setting. Additionally, it is a great option for businesses that do not already have an outdoor space. Parklets have been seen in cities like Dallas, where restaurants and shops have set up barriers and socially distant tables.
Whether your business has reopened or not, to-go kits can help provide you with another option to serve a wider range of customers while minimizing contact for employees. Bars, restaurants, and retail stores are coming up with creative ways to put together to-go options, from make-your-own pizzas and charcuterie boards to DIY candle-making sets and unique cocktail kits. Take a look at how The Modernist in San Antonio is serving up a special to-go kit.
Contactless payment has been a big part of the push to make reopening safer for employees and customers. Contactless payment may mean that customers to simply wave their credit card, debit card, or smart device in front of the pin pad, with no swiping or inserting required, or it could mean that employees do not take part in the payment process, and the customer swipes or inserts their own card to complete the transaction. In either case, it greatly reduces the risk of contact transmission for employees, as they do not have to touch multiple cards throughout the day.
Alternating or Staggered Schedules
Office-based businesses need to worry less about customer interaction, but still have to consider how to protect employees from making one another sick. Some businesses are reopening their offices, but only staffing to 50% so that some employees continue to work from home every-other week while others are in the office. Then the following week, the two employee groups trade who works in the office and who works from home. If you do bring everyone back to the office, consider asking employees to take the stairs instead of using the elevator and continue to run meetings with a video conferencing software rather than in-person.
5. Schedule Regular Electrostatic Spray Sanitizing Service
Many viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, are known to transfer via contact (as well as via droplets, i.e., from a cough or sneeze). Contact transmission is particularly dangerous, as SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to stay on hard, non-porous surfaces for up to 72 hours. That means that it is possible for a sick customer or employee to infect others for up to 3 days after they have coughed or sneezed or touched a surface in your business.
Shopping baskets, tables, chairs, door handles, service counters, point-of-sale systems, hand railings, and elevators are all potential vectors of Coronavirus transmission and should be sanitized with a continuous-acting product. Regular sanitizing of all surfaces in your business, including “high-touch” surfaces and items, will help to reduce the chance of your employees getting sick.
Why Electrostatic Spray Sanitize
Even if your place of business requires masks and/or gloves, there may still be the risk of contact transmission, as not everyone will follow mask recommendations in other businesses, or use their safety equipment properly. Additionally, many high-touch items in your business may be challenging to clean thoroughly or quickly. Hiring a professional sanitizing service will keep your employees safe from Coronavirus without requiring them to spend hours wiping and disinfecting by hand.
Alpha Decon’s electrostatic spray approach uses a mist plume to get full-coverage and surrounds the objects being sprayed. That means it sanitizes and disinfects the tops, bottoms, and sides of everything in your business, quickly. Because it is a mist, it also means that it’s safe to use on electronics like keyboards and pin pads, which is not typically the case with other spray sanitizers that spray liquid.
Electrostatic sprayers are proven to provide better coverage and disinfectant adherence than competing spray systems. Electrostatic sprayers positively charge the disinfectant droplets, making them smaller, more evenly dispersed, and causing them to stick to surfaces and infiltrate small, hard-to-clean spaces.
We select chemicals based on their ability to provide extended protection after application, and proven efficacy against other Human Coronavirus. This helps reduce the transmission of disease when the surface is exposed to pathogens after the service, in contrast to many commercial cleaners that may kill viruses at the time they are used but do not provide any protection after use or once they have dried.
Hire a professional sanitizing company to disinfect your place of business. Professionals will have access to highly effective chemicals and full-coverage systems that are food-safe, can get into hard to reach places, and continue to work after they have dried. Someone who is not professionally trained, such as an employee of your business, may not know how or where to effectively disinfect.
6. Communicate What You’re Doing to Keep Your Employees Safe
If you have employees who are older or are part of a high-risk population, they may feel nervous about returning to work as your business reopens. Sharing your reopening plan with them and all of the changes you have put in place to protect them from Coronavirus will go a long way toward providing reassurance. Hang signs in your employee areas of your business – whether that’s a break room, warehouse, kitchen, or in the manager’s office. Send company wide emails.
Don’t forget to communicate any policies you have put in place to protect your employees to any other people who may come into your business – whether that’s a customer, vendor, or even your UPS driver. Some of these policies may impact them (such as requiring a mask to enter the building) and all of these policies will also help them to stay healthy!
In addition to posting notices about Coronavirus policy changes for employees, you may also want to post signs visible to your customers, post on social media, or share information on your website.
Alpha Decon Sanitizing Services Can Help Protect Your Employees from Coronavirus
Whether you need a continuous-acting clean with no rinsing or wiping required or a food-safe professional-grade sanitization, Alpha Decon is here to help. Our local San Antonio professional sanitizing team can answer all your questions about how to keep employees safe from Coronavirus. During the crisis, we’re working 7 days per week from 9 am – 5 pm, and will make your disinfecting services a priority.
We offer one-time services, as well as discounted weekly or daily plans. Long-term contracts are available with negotiation. To get started with your first service appointment, give us a call at (866) 623-0013, or request a quote online.