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How to Manage a COVID-19 Outbreak in your Business

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Business in the COVID-19 Era

The last couple of months have been quite a blow to the world economy. As local governments begin to ease restrictions to reopen the economy, businesses are faced with uncertainty. Many businesses have scaled back their operations, devising, and implementing strategies to ensure safe business operations. Having a safe business plan during the pandemic era will be extremely valuable as it will enable you to respond agilely when an outbreak within the organization occurs.

Below are steps you can take to manage an outbreak and, hopefully, prevent another one:

Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan

Employers should explore available guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health agencies in developing a plan. Carefully review these and consider how it can be incorporated into various worksites and job tasks in the organization. In developing an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, consider the following factors:

  • Sources of COVID-19 that workers may be exposed to (e.g., general public, customers, co-workers, sick individuals, etc.)
  • Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings
  • Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., old age, presence of chronic medical conditions, pregnancy, immunocompromising conditions)
  • Controls necessary to address risks
To help you out, we are providing pre-made checklists that you can use for free. These checklists are based on available guidance from the local authorities of each region sorted below: 

SafeWork Australia Checklists

UK Government Reopening Checklists

Check more here to see available resources for your region. 

Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures

Ensure the safety and well-being of workers through preventive measures. Employers should establish good hygiene and infection control practices, which include:

  • Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water and use of alcohol-based hand rubs with at least 60% alcohol
  • Encouraging workers to stay home if sick
  • Encouraging respiratory etiquettes, such as covering coughs and sneezes and use of cloth masks
  • Establishing policies and best practices for flexible worksites and work hours and use of social distancing strategies
  • Maintaining regular cleaning routines and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment, especially those that are frequently touched

Develop, Implement, and Communicate a Workplace Adaptability Plan

Providing support to working employees during the pandemic can help minimize negative consequences for workers, employers, and their families. As workers return to work, employers must be cautious to prevent a resurgence and keep the business operational. Employers must establish workplace flexibilities and protections. A good example of this is to actively encourage sick employees to stay home and implement flexible policies for sick leaves and telework or work from home. Employers should also provide adequate, usable, and appropriate training and information for various job functions to ensure that these are performed according to COVID-19 health and safety policies.

Develop Procedures for Prompt Identification of Affected People

Identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is critical in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and other individuals in the worksite. Employers should implement proactive measures, including the following:

  • A health monitoring system that checks for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival and departure of employees from the worksite
  • A reporting process in case someone is identified as sick and experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • A room or designated area with closed doors to isolate potentially infectious individuals until they can be removed from the worksite

Implement Workplace Controls

The best way to control workplace hazards is to systematically remove them from the workplace. However, during a COVID-19 outbreak, eliminating the hazard may not be possible. Therefore, employers should take the following protection measures:

  • Engineering controls – this type of control reduces the exposure to hazards without relying on worker behavior. (e.g., installation of physical barriers, installing high-efficiency air filters, installation of a drive-thru window for customer service)
  • Administrative controls – this type of control requires action by the worker or employer. It involves changes in work policies or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. (e.g., establishing staggering shifts, discontinuing nonessential travels, telework, training, etc.)
  • Safe work practices – this is a type of administrative control that includes procedures for safe and proper work to reduce duration, frequency, or intensity of exposure to a hazard. (e.g., hand washing hygiene)
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – this type of control is considered to be the most effective as it not only minimizes exposure but also prevents certain exposures. However, PPE’s shouldn’t take the place of other prevention measures. (e.g., gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, etc.)

Follow Existing Industry-guided Standards

As governments across the world reopen their economies, resources for industry-specific guidance are made available to help businesses operate safely. Federal, state and local government agencies are best sources for information during the outbreak of COVID-19. Employers and business owners should carefully review these guidelines to help protect the safety of their employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

Helpful Resources to Combat COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak condition changes every so often, and without a vaccine available, threats of resurgence are high. Establishing a safe business plan can help substantially mitigate the number and severity of workplace risks caused by the pandemic while reducing costs to employers.

To help business owners, iAuditor by SafetyCulture provides COVID-19 resources such as templates and checklists that are useful in implementing and managing health and safety protocols in the workplace. Review and customize templates according to your business need and use them to enhance your safety protocols in the workplace.

Disclaimer: Please note that these checklists are hypothetical examples and provide basic information only. They are not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should also seek professional advice to determine if the use of such checklists are permissible in your workplace or jurisdiction.


Jai Andales

SafetyCulture staff writer

Jai is a content writer for SafetyCulture based in Manila. She has been writing well-researched articles about health and safety topics since 2018. She is passionate about empowering businesses to utilize technology in building a culture of safety and quality.