UPDATE As of March 1st 2021: Executive Order On Protecting Worker Health And Safety
OSHA’s new guidance is advisory in nature and creates no new legal obligations. However, one of President Biden’s first acts after being sworn in was to sign an Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety that directs OSHA to increase enforcement of existing agency standards and investigate whether a new standard for COVID-19 mitigation is needed. Given that, employers may want to consider the new guidelines a strong recommendation.
In a nutshell, OSHA recommends that employers and employees implement a COVID-19 prevention program that includes the following elements:
- Masks and social distancing
- A hazard assessment
- Measures to limit the spread of the virus
- Ways to identify (and send home) sick employees and policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers for staying home when sick
- Communication of coronavirus policies and procedures in both English and the primary language of non-English speaking workers
- Protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns
Read below for more information on Covid-19 business reopening.
Reopening Businesses in SC
The Coronavirus curve is starting to shift, which means we can look forward to the process of slowly getting life as a whole back to normal. Business owners are likely the ones looking most forward to this trend, especially ones that have had to shut their doors.
As the Governor takes measures to begin reopening certain businesses in South Carolina, business owners are now facing another obstacle – how to resume business operations under strict state regulations. From bringing employees back to work to adapting business as you know it to the circumstances that are in play right now, it is time to get your plan in place.
Most importantly, if you have received confirmation that you are able to open your doors, it is ultimately up to you if you want to or not. If you feel, for the safety of you and your employees that it is best to wait, that is fine. You need to feel comfortable that you are making the right decision.
General Business Reopening Information You Need to Know
‘Opening Up America Again Plan’ from the President
On April 16th, President Trump announced the “Opening Up America Again” plan. This basically states that the Governors of each state, as well as local officials, are able to make the determination of when each non-essential business reopens, public area (such as beaches and parks) reopens, as well as updating state orders. They are recommended to monitor symptoms and cases using local hospitals and resources advice.
Phase One Recommendations (Currently Starting)
During Phase One, there are three factors that must be met.
- The downward trajectory of flu-like and COVID-19-like symptoms reported within the state in a 14-day period.
- A downward trend of documented positive tests within a 14-day period
- Hospitals must be able to treat all patients without crisis care
Employers are recommended to follow the five below steps:
- Continue to have employees work remotely as much as possible.
- If possible, have employees return to work in phases rather than all at once.
- Enforce strict social distancing guidelines, this includes closing common areas where gatherings occur.
- Avoid non-essential business travel as much as possible and adhering to the CDC guidelines.
- Take the precautions needed, such as cleaning most-touched areas throughout the day and avoiding contact with clients/customers.
What Employers in South Carolina Need to Do When Reopening
The Governor of South Carolina announces that your business is now allowed to resume business. What do you now need to do?
Safety Guidelines and Precautions are in Place
- The CDC and OSHA have several general guidelines in place currently for businesses, be sure these are all in place before your doors open.
- South Carolina will be providing specific guidelines to business owners regarding business policy during the different phases of reopening. For instance, if only a certain amount of people are allowed within a certain amount of space how are you going to monitor traffic within your business and account for this? Do you have space outside for people to wait as it hits maximum capacity?
- Do you have the necessary HR documentation completed and posted, as needed. These posters are mandatory for all businesses to have posted.
Bringing Back Employees / Effective Communication
- The most important aspect of bringing your employees back is open communication during this time. Even before your business gets approval to reopen, be in touch with each of them regarding your plan.
- If employees were laid off or furloughed, have the necessary documentation to return back to work. Get the furlough recall letter here.
- If possible, have as many employees work from home at this time. More information about working from home.
- Consider the safest work environment for your employees, schedule employees at different times, use a phased approach to bringing back employees rather than all at once.
- Confirm all payroll aspects are correct. If you outsource your payroll, make them aware business will be opening and any payroll changes there may be.
- Provide immediate training regarding company policies, state requirements and safety measures with your employees.
Communicate with Customer/Clients
- In addition to your employees, your customers or clients must also know the policies and regulations that are in place. Communicate with them regarding possible increased wait times, going online if possible rather than coming in person as well as any adjusted hours or manpower when reopening.
- Customers/clients must also take the necessary safety precautions. Make sure you have washing stations available, distance markers for social distancing, sanitizer available and are asking anyone with symptoms to stay home.
Each industry is different and their approach to reopening will be different. These are general terms to consider when reopening your business in South Carolina, but are not specific to one industry. We know the urge to get back to work, but taking the necessary steps to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is increasingly important when you open your doors back up.
If you have questions, our HR Guides are here to help. The time to ask questions, get answers and have a plan in place is now, not after your business is opened again.
We will continue to update this COVID-19 resource page for employers daily with reopening news and information. Check-in here to stay informed over the next several weeks.