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Please note that regulations and rules related to COVID-19 and reopening businesses change daily. The information in this article is current as of the publication date only. Please check local, state, and federal regulations for the most current information about reopening your business.
New information and guidelines emerge daily around COVID-19. This impacts workers on the frontlines, but it also affects business owners, who, after closing, reopening, and even closing again, have to navigate evolving recommendations.
Those changing goalposts can upend even the strongest of business continuity plans. But by staying informed, you can keep pace with new developments and reopen your business successfully.
To start, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both provided guidance for business owners as they approach reopening plans — specifically around four key areas:
- Cleaning and disinfecting physical spaces to initially and routinely remove contaminants.
- Training and retraining staff on new policies and procedures to protect the health and safety of the workforce, like wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing.
- Management and communications to support compliance with new policies and procedures.
- Facilities and equipment safety, like checking air ventilation or reconfiguring workspaces.
We’ve compiled a list of where to go when looking for the right COVID-19 information from federal entities.
OSHA resources for business owners
Many things have changed about COVID-19, so visit OSHA’s COVID-19 business hub for information, guidance, and resources related to workplace safety and health. (You may want to bookmark the page so you’ll have easy access to it.)
Notably, OSHA regularly updates the “News and Updates” column, which it organizes by the newest first. Though the agency includes several resources on its site, these are ones you’ll probably want to review first:
- Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19: This PDF outlines preparations to take to mitigate exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition to general tips that all workplaces should follow (like how to develop a response plan), it also provides counsel based on a workplace’s exposure risk, from low (for office workers who don’t interact closely with each other or the public) to very high (for healthcare workers who care for COVID-19 patients). This resource is also available in Spanish.
- Guidance on Returning to Work: This PDF resource includes factors to consider for reopening plans, like hygiene, social distancing, and determining when and how workers need PPE. It also includes OSHA’s preexisting mandatory protections and how they apply to COVID-19.
- Interim Guidance for Specific Worker Groups: Dentists, retail workers, in-home repair services, and other industries will find specific guidance here.
- Frequently Asked Questions: This live page answers employers’ common questions, including the provision and wearing of face masks, setting up hand-washing stations, and COVID-19 testing.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to navigate these waters alone. OSHA also provides a free onsite consultation program for all small and medium businesses, though high-risk worksites take priority.
CDC resources for business owners
Unlike OSHA, the CDC doesn’t enforce compliance with its guidance. Employers should still take the CDC’s recommendations on its Businesses and Workplace page seriously.
Here’s where to start:
- Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): These recommendations outline how to prevent workplace exposure. Sections include best practices to prevent transmission among employees and how to maintain healthy business operations and work environments.
- Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes: As part of the broader “White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” this subset details initial and routine cleaning protocols — including EPA-approved products to kill the virus, cleaning directions by surface type, and how to create a usable disinfectant plan for your business.
- Frequently Asked Questions: Similar to OSHA’s FAQs, this live page is a repository for common questions related to COVID-19 in the workplace. Sections include how to manage suspected or confirmed cases and how to handle everyday activities like business travel or in-person meetings.
- Health and Safety Steps for Specific Occupations: Like OSHA’s resource, this collection of links provides specific guidance for various industries, including nail salon employees, delivery and rideshare drivers, and others.
The CDC also offers a printable toolkit to help businesses document the actions they’re taking to boot back up safely. This can help you track progress as you reopen your business, and get access to resources like breakroom posters and fact sheets.
Adapting to changing COVID-19 guidelines
Employers can help combat the spread of the coronavirus. But part of doing so means acknowledging that neither life nor work will go back to normal, at least for a while. Along the way, data and guidelines are bound to change. As you reopen your business, make a plan to update yourself regularly about changing best practices.
Sign up for OSHA’s newsletter and follow the CDC on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates. Also, keep in touch with your local and regional health authorities for new information in your area.
Stay informed, smart, and whenever possible, one step ahead.