Top Considerations for Essential Ohio Businesses to Sustain Operations Amid COVID-19

BakerHostetler

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous state and local authorities are instituting protective orders to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, M.D. MPH, issued a statewide “Stay at Home Order” (Order) effective 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2020. As a result of this directive, Ohio businesses deemed “essential” that elect to remain operational through the healthcare crisis must take steps to protect themselves, their employees, and their customers.

Protective Measures for Essential Businesses Remaining Open

Should someone with whom your company does business (e.g., an employee, sales representative, customer or vendor) contract COVID-19, your company will want to be able to demonstrate that it implemented all of the measures required under the Order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Those requirements are detailed in Sections 15 and 18 of the Ohio Order and are set forth in their entirety below. A summary of key considerations to which your business should noticeably and tangibly adhere to in order to protect your organization, employees and others include the following:

  • Issue a press release announcing your company is staying open and setting forth the specific sections of the order supporting that position. Making a public statement can help maintain employee morale and customer sentiment and will allow the public to quickly learn that your business remains open.
  • Adhere to social distancing requirements and provide for adequate space between employees and/or customers to maintain appropriate distance from one another.
  • Make accommodations for as many employees as possible to work from home by instituting remote work policies.
  • Sanitize high-traffic areas, frequently used equipment and workstations. Provide protection supplies such as soap and water, hand sanitizer, and tissues for use by employees.
  • Ensure that your company’s sick leave policies are up to date, flexible and non-punitive to allow sick employees to stay home to care for themselves or other family members.
  • Encourage sick employees to stay home until they are free of symptoms and fever; considering the current multitude of patients seeing healthcare providers during this pandemic, do not require employees to provide medical documentation of their illness. Send employees exhibiting symptoms home and ensure they stay away from the business until they have fully recovered.
  • Develop alternative plans as needed to remain flexible and maintain critical business operations (i.e. identify alternate supplies, be prepared to prioritize customers, be ready to suspend operations if needed).
  • Reinforce key messaging regarding hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying home when sick via posters in visible places within your business.
Reaction of the Workforce

Another issue facing employers that continue operations under the Order is the reaction of the workforce. Serious consideration should be given to creating a record explaining the reasons justifying the continued operations, as well as the efforts taken by your company to comply with the safeguards in the Order and any additional workforce protection measures. In addition, consideration should be given to communicating those precautions to the workforce and preserving, tracking and addressing any responses in real time.

Conclusion

With greater understanding of the regulations surrounding the Ohio Order, essential businesses that remain open can take the appropriate measures to protect their operations, employees, and customers.

Sections 15 and 18 from the Order

15. Social Distancing Requirements. For purposes of this Order, Social Distancing Requirements includes maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and not shaking hands.

  • Required measures. Essential Businesses and Operations and businesses engaged in Minimum Basic Operations must take proactive measures to ensure compliance with Social Distancing Requirements, including where possible:
  1. Designate six-foot distances. Designating with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance;
  2. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products. Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
  3. Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations. Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
  4. Online and remote access. Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.

18. COVID-19 Information and Checklist for Businesses/Employers. Business and employers are to take the following actions:

a. Allow as many employees as possible to work from home by implementing policies in areas such as teleworking and videoconferencing.

b. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home until they are free of fever (without the use of medication) for at least 72 hours (three full days) AND symptoms have improved for at least 72 hours AND at least seven days have passed since symptoms first began. Do not require a healthcare provider’s note to validate the illness or return to work of employees sick with acute respiratory illness; healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

c. Ensure that your sick leave policies are up to date, flexible and non-punitive to allow sick employees to stay home to care for themselves, children, or other family members. Consider encouraging employees to do a self-assessment each day to check if they have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath).

d. Separate employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms from other employees and send them home immediately. Restrict their access to the business until they have recovered.

e. Reinforce key messages – stay home when sick, use cough and sneeze etiquette, and practice hand hygiene – to all employees, and place posters in areas where they are most likely to be seen. Provide protection supplies such as soap and water, hand sanitizer, tissues, and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.

f. Frequently perform enhanced environmental cleaning of commonly touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, railings, door handles, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.

g. Be prepared to change business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations).

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