Don’t Re-Occupy Before Doing This…

I am sure we have all had ENOUGH of COVID-19 and are ready to get back to the office, restaurant, store, or wherever it was that you were before the “lockdown.” As states begin to open back up, businesses will begin to re-occupy their previously-vacated spaces. As a business owner, that requires examination of your existing spaces for safety and security. Expecting to be able to simply “return to normal” is a bit naive, and may expose your business to scrutiny (at least), legal liability (at worst). What policies, procedures, modifications need to be put in place to ensure the safety of your business’s employees, customers and clients?

These are a few examples of what you might want to consider BEFORE opening back up:

In general, all businesses will need to implement an array of policies and procedures.  They should examine their social distancing capabilities. Staggering workstations may help with this.  If possible, they may want to keep a percentage of staff working remotely to aid with social distancing.  Travel may require limitations. On-premise sanitizing procedures will need to be put in place and monitored. They may want to implement a check-in station that checks temperatures before allowing employees to enter. Face coverings may not be going away anytime soon. Businesses that have been closed for an extended period of time will want to flush their water lines.

Medical offices will have to examine waiting rooms and triage areas for social distancing.  Offices that used to allow employees to wear scrubs to and from the office now find themselves requiring employees to change into and out of scrubs in the office. Scrubs can no longer leave the premises, and must be either cleaned on site or sent out via laundry service.  They need to provide adequate changing facilities. They may also find it cheaper to install a washer and dryer and clean the uniforms themselves than use a service. A myriad of OSHA requirements and CDC guidelines have to be navigated.

Restaurants will have reduced dining capacity, increased sanitation requirements, waiting area concerns, and more. Maximizing takeout and delivery capacity will still be a wise decision for a while to come!  Adding outdoor dining, especially headed into the summer months, could be critical to business.

More extreme considerations could be to review the HVAC system for upgrades, filtration and segregation. Commonplace mixing of the air throughout the building might not be desired any longer. Consider installing UV germicidal irradiation (UVGI) in mechanical systems to treat air. Restroom upgrades should be considered so that all fixtures and accessories are touchless as expected nowadays. Not doing so could be considered complacent and disrespectful.

And, there are many more examples to consider. Ultimately, it will vary from company to company, from business to business.  But make no doubt, it requires analysis before re-occupying.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has developed a tool to aid in the analysis.  It is available for download here:  AIA Re-Occupancy Assessment Tool

Also, the American Industrial Hygiene Association has put together some industry-specific guides to get “Back to Work Safely.”

If you need help, our Architect-led Design-Build strategy may be just the tool you need to implement it properly, and QUICKLY!

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