by Todd Sturgeon, Sturgeon Consulting

COVID-19 has impacted businesses across the nation. Business leaders face new challenges and changing government mandates daily. It is a difficult task to balance production demands, executive mandates, and employee apprehension.
A good place to start is creating a written pandemic program to help manage the current situation, and future outbreaks. This document serves as the foundation for ensuring employees and customers that you have procedures in place to safely continue operations. Some key components of the program include:

  • Pandemic coordinators
  • Employee education
  • Prevention protocols
  • Cleaning schedules
  • Supplies
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • Event response
  • Operation impact

We discussed these program items in detail during a recent webinar hosted by the NWIRC. The presentation is still available for reviewing at the link listed below. Most organizations have adopted new COVID-19 protocols. However, it is important to regularly review key program areas.

Engineering controls are important to implement. Discuss installing higher MERV rated filters with your HVAC contractor. Making process modifications, redesigning work stations and break areas, and installing physical barriers can be effective for increasing social distancing.

Administrative controls are an essential component of any pandemic management strategy. A few items to remember: Encourage sick workers to stay home; modify or suspend meetings and trainings; adjust or alternate work shifts and breaks; provide employee education on pandemic protocols; control visitors, vendors, and deliveries; and implement a detailed cleaning schedule.

It is critical that you respond correctly to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. Your strategy should cover isolation, communication, cleaning / disinfecting, cleaning products, and monitoring. COVID-19 could be a seasonal threat, as well as new virus or bacteria strains. The seasonal flu and common cold cause significant employee absences each year. Consider adopting into your regular business culture some of the practices currently in place. This would include regular education on hand washing, social distancing, coughing/sneezing, etc. It also warrants the possibility of maintaining your staggered breaks, lunches, and some production schedules. The modification to meetings, training, and business social events must also be reviewed.

The lessons learned and new protocols established during this pandemic, can be beneficial for the future. The positive impact from COVID-19 could be that your future absentee rates are decreased. Employee morale and retention could substantially improve. Promote your pandemic management program to your customers. Your customer relationships could strengthen with the confidence that pandemic management is part of your business continuity program.

Side Note: Request a link to view the recorded-webinar, How to Safely Maintain Business Operations During COVID-19 Challenges featuring Todd Sturgeon, by emailing: mreichard@nwirc.org.