Applying New Guidance and Regulations to Stay Safe
These are unprecedented times for Pasadena. While the Pasadena City College (PCC) campus has closed until the end of the semester, its faculty and staff are still on the job, helping students and community partners maintain their balance in these confusing times. Both businesses and industries continue to struggle to make sense of incoming guidance and how to apply new regulations over their existing standards.
As the leader of one of our local businesses, your best local resource is the Pasadena City College Small Business Development Center. They offer technical assistance and support to our community businesses. PCC has also created a site that streamlines all the information flowing into the school because of the Covid-19 concern, Covid19biztools.com. There are public and private resources there for every company.
The spread of the disease is making the struggle harder: As of April 2, California reports close to 10,000 cases and is expecting that number to grow. Every business is asked to follow all social distancing recommendations and requirements during this time to reduce the opportunity for further and unnecessary infections within our community.
At PCC, we are highly sensitive to the needs of our business and industry neighbors, so we are offering these notes in support of your efforts to get your company and its workers safely through this Covid-19 pandemic.
Be “Safer at Home”
As of March 19, the City of Pasadena is under a “Safer at Home” order (Executive Order N-33-20), which requires all individuals to stay at home (in their place of residence) pending resolution of the Covid-19 crisis. All businesses that aren’t considered ‘essential’ (see below) must close and allow their workers to remain at home. To these employers, we thank you for ensuring that both your workers and our community stay safe because of your support for ‘social distancing. ‘
Only ‘essential’ workers, those who provide ‘critical infrastructure operations,’ can continue to move about the community. The list of occupations that are considered ‘critical infrastructure’ is long and encompasses vital industries, including healthcare, public safety, food services, energy, water resources, and more. The businesses that perform these services are integral to maintaining Pasadena’s services, and their workforce is risking its health to get that work done. Thank you to all who are working hard to keep the rest of us safe.
Use This Time Well
For open and closed businesses, there are actions that can be taken now to manage this crisis and prepare for future emergencies, including another pandemic. Guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers insights into both the specifics of this Covid-19 concern, as well as instructions on how to control and prevent the spread of this or any disease in employment settings:
Develop an ‘Infectious Disease’ Preparedness Plan
The plan should evaluate the various risk factors that are unique to the business:
Every area and surface is (probably) capable of hosting a viral or bacterial threat, regardless of their location. Bathrooms and kitchens are likely areas, but so are telephones, computer keyboards, customer service desks, and doors. Take the time now to determine where these risks are located in your business and to put in place some basic infection prevention measures to keep them sanitary and hygienic.
The biggest challenge here is not knowing where your workers and customers were before they walked through your door. They may have picked up the infection (or bacterial concern) while out in the world and are bringing it into your establishment. Establish protocols for sick workers, develop handwashing and cleaning protocols for office surfaces and limit the requirement of physical contact between your employees and customers (no more handshakes!)
- Within the workforce (again):
Your workers may have risk factors themselves that require special handling, such as health concerns (i.e. -chronic health conditions). The plan can include directives specific to those employees.
- Within the operations systems:
Every crisis will cause some amount of absenteeism, reduced supply resources, and decreasing revenues. Your plan can include contingency actions in the event your company experiences any of these business interrupters, to minimize losses and maintain safety.
Perhaps the biggest lesson for today’s employers stemming from the Covid-19 concern is the need to remain flexible in the face of uncertainty. Fortunately for many companies, remote work-from-home opportunities reduce downtime and help to maintain at least a percentage of the company’s regular workflow. If your company can operate that way but doesn’t yet have those capacities, it’s a great time to develop them now, or at least put together the plan to put them in place.
Note, too, that, according to OSHA, for most companies, simply following existing standards will go a long way towards avoiding infection in local workforces.
The federal government is offering assistance, but there are many agencies and entities closer to home that are offering helpful resources during these dark days. Here in the LA area, the City of Pasadena, the Foothill Workforce Development Board, and dozens of agencies are assisting local businesses. Perhaps your enterprise can benefit from their generosity:
You can also find help at the US and CA Small Business Administration, the City of Los Angeles, and the Jewish Free Loan Association are all offering bridge loans to tide companies through the pandemic. (Anyone can qualify!).
There are also groups offering support for specific worker populations, so while they may not support your business, they do support your staff:
Food and Other Support
Cities and groups are offering free food support, including both food bank opportunities and free take-out options. Los Angeles has a community-sourced list of food and housing supports for all groups, including undocumented people, the LGBTQ community, and the homeless population.
Other services/supports are also available:
- CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens are providing free medication deliveries;
- Both Los Angeles City and County have put moratoriums on evictions, which will ease the stress on families andbusinesses struggling to pay their rent. Pasadena is also contemplating joining this effort.
How NOT to Pass the Time
Unfortunately, despite the warnings and prohibitions, too many people around the country left the safety of their homes to congregate in large groups at local tourism locations, such as beaches and parks. Without work or school on the calendar, taking that sort of break sounds like a fine idea. However, those crowds create the exact type of threat that the “Be Safe at Home” proclamation is designed to avoid: easy and swift virus transmission through close human contact.
If you have closed your company or you have limited your business hours and relieved your workers of their shifts, it is appropriate for you also to suggest that they actually stay home and not wander the community during these difficult times. The critical thing to remember is that the Covid-19 pandemic will subside, and work will return to its ‘new’ normal (for most businesses), and you will need your trained and experienced workforce ready to return to work as soon as that opportunity gets the green light.
No matter what, the Covid-19 pandemic has already changed how America works. Use this opportunity to limit your company’s exposure to the current crisis and be prepared for the next one. Then take a breath and enjoy the enforced downtime; it’ll do you, your family, and your organization a world of good.
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