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This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or medical advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
Employees at grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and other essential retail operations have been amongst the many dedicated people who are at the frontlines of the current pandemic.
To protect employees and customers alike, essential businesses have implemented multiple safety measures based on United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance. However, requirements around protective measures vary by county and state.
Extensive safety protocols will not only help keep your employees healthy but will also build trust between you and your most valuable asset: your customers.
Here are a few safety measures you can put into place today to protect your employees and customers now and as more and more businesses start to reopen.
Clean and sanitize everything, often
The World Health Organization says the COVID-19 virus can live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours.
To prevent transferring germs, establish a rigorous cleaning protocol for customer-facing and high-touch surfaces. Clean credit card terminals, styluses, and the surrounding area after each customer. If you have the supplies, consider providing wipes to customers and giving them the opportunity to do it themselves to reduce worker exposure.
Cleaning protocols should also extend to employee-only areas. Clean workstations, monitors, keyboards, touchscreens, and related equipment any time a new person uses them. Also remember to clean shopping carts and baskets after each use. To further prevent contact with the virus, many stores are prohibiting reusable bags.
In addition to cleaning surfaces, another very important step employees can take is to wash their hands. All employees should scrub their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer frequently. Give employees several short breaks to do so.
Encourage contactless payments
Mastercard saw a 40% jump in contactless payments during the first quarter of 2020, which indicates customers want a fast way to check out with fewer touchpoints.
With contactless payments, the credit card or device never leaves the customer’s hands. They simply tap and go. With a point-of-sale system designed with contactless payments in mind, like Square Terminal, businesses of all sizes can create a touch-free checkout environment. Payments that are contactless are safer for your employees and a win for customer service.
Create a barrier
Many grocery stores and other businesses have installed plexiglass sheeting between cashiers and customers. Also called sneeze guards, these clear shields can help to protect employees from virus-containing respiratory droplets while allowing face-to-face interaction.
Even though there’s a thick, clear barrier between customer and cashier, the transaction process remains as smooth as ever. A small cutout window allows card readers to pass through, and barcode scanners can work through plexiglass
Create a buffer
It’s recommended that stores should maintain six-foot barriers between customers and employees. To help customers keep their distance, mark spots on the floor six feet away from cashiers. Do the same to encourage customers to stay six feet apart from one another in line. Signage to remind customers to follow the six-foot rule will help reinforce social distancing measures.
To make it easier for people to practice social distancing, limit store capacity to 50%. As people wait to enter, make sure they stay spaced six feet apart. Consider marking the ground with waiting areas that are six feet apart to help customers maintain the right distance.
As customers enter your store, give them hand sanitizer or a wipe as they enter. Direct customers to different areas of your store as they start shopping to reduce crowding.
Depending on the nature of your business, it may make sense to forego face-to-face interactions temporarily and move to online ordering and curbside pickup. If you aren’t selling online yet, you can create an online store that syncs with your inventory to help manage delivery, pickup and shipping options.
Masks for everyone
The U.S. Department of Labor recommends employees wear cloth face coverings or masks that cover their nose and mouth (although not N95 or surgical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders). Wearing face masks and coverings helps protect employees and customers from spreading diseases.
Several states and municipalities have issued orders requiring employees in customer/client-facing businesses to wear non-surgical-grade masks. Review laws in your city and state to determine what’s required for your business.
While it makes sense to follow CDC guidelines and encourage employees to wear face coverings, also consider Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance around reasonable accommodations.
For the foreseeable future, retailers will need to go the extra mile to protect both employees and customers. Establishing strong infection prevention protocols now is the smart thing to do for your employees and the community at large.