Among the latest updates for COVID, HR and payroll companies are suggesting that businesses create their own COVID-19 disaster response plans. This goes beyond simply updating employee policies for telework or doing strategic HR planning in case an employee gets COVID. Even if a business is already operating with measures in place for safety, a documented plan is important for clients and for vendors. Read on to see why it’s imperative to your company’s operations to create and document a COVID disaster response plan ASAP. This article will also provide some guidance from MP’s HR services team on how make this kind of plan.
Why vendors will require COVID disaster response plans
A common problem that businesses and organizations are having right now is that their vendors won’t come on-site and service them without documented COVID disaster response plans. They see this as a liability issue. If they’re sending employees somewhere off-site, they’re liable for these workers’ safety. To mitigate risk, they may want to review COVID disaster response plans, allowing them to be more confident that the work environments they send workers will be taking steps to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Businesses or organizations that don’t have a COVID disaster response plan may have trouble getting vendors on-site to provide crucial services and products. Some examples of potential problems are when a business needs their outsourced tech support company to come fix computers, needs key equipment for operations fixed, or needs a re-stock of merchandise. Having a disaster response plan ready will help ensure that a business or organization doesn’t have an issue getting a vendor to provide something on-site and in a timely manner.
Why clients will require COVID disaster response plans
To help customers and clients feel less nervous about coming on-site during the pandemic, it’s best to offer them a brief version of a COVID disaster response plan. Having this plan drawn up and on-hand also has a few other benefits. Firstly, it’s a great marketing tool. A good disaster response plan is another ‘feature’ of a service or product. A company can share it on social media, their website, their front doors, or as part of any other marketing efforts. A company’s commitment to safety could be a way to set them apart from competitors. The second benefit is about pre-empting complaints or concerns from customers or clients. If a visitor to the company knows everything that’s being done to prevent the spread of COVID, they may be more likely to do business with you and less worried about their safety.
How to share your COVID disaster response plan
Businesses and organizations should actually make two plans. One will be a detailed, formal plan. This plan should be disseminated among staff. It can be posted in a breakroom, emailed to everyone, or printed out. The second plan will be a short summary of the longer one. Ideally it will be one page and written in plain language. (Note that you may want to have both versions translated to another language if your workers don’t predominantly speak English.) This second version should feel easy to read for anyone with any level of education. It should be accessible to as many people as possible. A business can share this plan proactively with any vendors that need to come on-site, post it on doorways for customers, clients, and visitors, and share it on their website. As mentioned above, they can also share it in marketing materials. It’s best to keep this in mind as the business develops this short document, making it feel as engaging, organized, and well-written as possible. Especially if it will be shared with clients and customers, it’s best to apply the same standards as on any other piece of marketing material. A company may even use a designer and make the plan a colorful, aesthetically pleasing page (or pdf, webpage, etc.).
How to create a COVID disaster response plan
Businesses and nonprofits that have HR consulting can reach out for help with this task. If they don’t, below is a list of things to consider in the process of developing the plan.
- Check to see that the plan meets industry-specific standards. Massachusetts businesses can check here for their particular sector.
- Appoint a task team that will handle all COVID-19 operations.
- Clearly articulate that the objective will be to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even as the business operates as closely to normal as possible.
- Lay out what the procedure will be if a worker tests positive for Coronavirus, has symptoms that seem COVID-like, or is/has recently been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive for the virus. Make it clear that affected workers will need to leave the premises, self-isolate, and seek out medical treatment if necessary.
- Set up and require that employees frequently use hygiene stations with soap and water.
- Provide hand sanitizers that have a 70% alcohol base. Provide paper towels to be used after handwashing and to open restroom doors.
- Lay out guidelines of what kind of personal contact and social interactions are acceptable. Require social distancing, prohibit hugs and shaking hands, etc.
- Contract out a cleaning service or assign employees to handle a daily routine of sanitization for all the surfaces frequently touched (including door handles, doors, kitchen surfaces, etc.). Employers might require staff to lightly clean their own individual workstations daily.
- Lay out a plan to frequently screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms. Do temperature checks, ask basic questions about symptoms, or even do COVID testing.
- If possible, lay out a plan to stagger breaks and/or shifts.
- Create a list of possible accommodations for employees who identify themselves as most at-risk for serious COVID complications.
- Set requirements for when and where employees, visitors, vendors, and clients will wear masks or face shields.
- Limit visitors in an office setting or any other setting where this makes sense.
- Require employees, vendors, and clients to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbows and to immediately wash hands afterwards.
- If the business provides employees with PPE (personal protective equipment), note it. Check with state laws, as in places like California, an employer may be required to pay for and provide things like masks to their workers.
- Set expectations for travel, including what is necessary for work and what is not. If the business requires travel for work, consider providing alternatives to public transportation.
- Implement mandatory daily checklists for safety procedures if necessary.
- Offer training for staff on COVID-19.
- Minimize or ban meetings of more than a few people. Host virtual meetings if possible.
- If possible, create a remote work program for staff members that can complete their duties via telework.
- Make it clear that employees who feel sick should stay home and take PTO or work remotely. Advise employees on how to check and see what PTO and sick time is available to them.
- Explain the options for leaves that employees might be eligible for. Let them know who they can speak to if they need more information.
- Begin the plan with language similar to this: “To prevent the spread of COVID and protect our staff, clients, visitors, and vendors, these are the action steps we are taking as a business/organization.”
- If a workplace is taking other steps that are industry-specific, or just specific to their environment, add these to the plan.
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