It is the duty of every organization to protect the health and safety of its employees. Although the Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for the general population of Canada, it is still important that businesses take preventative measures to minimize the risk of the virus spreading within their workplaces.
COVID-19 spreads through close contact with an infected person and contaminated surfaces. Educate employees on the symptoms and the basic precautions to prevent the spread of infections.
COVID-19 symptoms are similar to that of colds and flus, and the severity can vary depending on the individual. These symptoms can be take up to 14 days to appear, and include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing and pneumonia (in severe cases).
Prevent the spread:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and dispose of it immediately or into your sleeve instead of your hands
- Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others
To keep your workplace safe:
- Keep up to date on federal, provincial and municipal guidelines and recommendations and incorporate them into your operations.
- Be prepared to operate with a temporarily reduced workforce.
- Plan for downsizing services as well as circumstances which may require a surge in services.
- Stockpile items such as soap, tissue, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and any recommended Personal Protective Equipment.
- Provide employees and customers with easy access to infection control supplies.
- Keep surfaces clean. Instruct facilities personnel to clean surfaces thoroughly.
- Minimize group meetings to reduce the potential for transmission.
- Develop policies and practices that, if necessary, can be introduced to separate employees from each
other, customers, and the general public.
- Identify a team to serve as a communication resource so that employees and customers have access to
accurate information throughout the crisis.
- Work with your insurance provider, and provincial and municipal health agencies to provide accurate
information to employees and customers.
- Assist employees in managing additional stress and mental health (i.e. Employee Assistance Program – EAP).
- Work with employees to address leave, pay, transportation, childcare, absences, and other
human resource issues.
Your Business Continuity Plan
While a business continuity plan should be established well in advance of a crisis, there are steps that you can take now to prepare for the worst. Here are the essential steps to creating a business continuity plan:
- Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify critical processes and functions that would be affected.
- Identify essential employees to deliver critical processes and functions.
- Determine the agility of the workforce and what resources may be needed during a disruption.
- Review current or develop policies regarding remote work, paid or unpaid sick or personal time. Encourage sick or unwell employees to work remotely or isolated from other employees.
- Align business travel to align with government mandated travel restrictions.
- Discuss protocol for the safe evacuation or quarantine of employees who are traveling.
- Define internal and external stakeholders for conveying communication.
- Develop strategies and vetted holding statements to communicate with employees, customers, vendors and the media.
- Review supplier service level agreements to consequences for not abiding by contracts.
- Review supplier business continuity plans to determine whether they align with your expectations.
- Define the capabilities of the upstream supply chain to determine their capability to provide your business what it needs during a disruption.
- Consider increasing inventory to extend operations if the upstream supplier is not capable of delivering needed goods.
- Define the capabilities of the downstream supply chain to assess impact to your customers if operations are no longer feasible at normal capacity.
- Communicate business decisions to appropriate audiences.
- Train response team members on responsibilities during a disruption. Encourage feedback and respond in a timely manner.
To assess your organizational resilience in dealing with an outbreak, download this checklist from Ecclesiastical.