Business leaders have successfully adapted to their changing workplace & lifestyle, but confusion can loom over plans to reopen. As Washington nears the end of Phase I of Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Plan, business owners face a new challenge of reopening safely & meeting strict legal requirements. Questions around their ability to reopen, documenting and training employees on new policies, keeping employees safe, and complying with new state guidelines are a few of the considerations businesses must make before opening their doors. Let’s take the confusion out of Phase II so that companies can transition effectively and get back to business.

When Will Phase II Begin?

The earliest expected start date for Phase II is June 1st, and as of May 27th, 21 counties have already been allowed to enter. However, that date is not a guarantee. Governor Inslee recently stated that there is no guarantee all counties in Washington will enter Phase II on schedule, as sufficient progress must be made in four key areas to proceed. The four areas include our healthcare system’s readiness, testing capacity & availability, contact tracing, and protecting high-risk populations.

What Businesses Qualify to Open in Phase II?

In Phase II, permitted business activities include:

  • Dine-in restaurants and taverns: Must operate under 50% capacity, with table sizes capped at parties of 5
  • New construction
  • In-home/domestic services such as nannies and house cleaning
  • In-store retail
  • Manufacturing businesses
  • Professional services and office-based businesses, although telework remains strongly encouraged
  • Personal services such as hair and nail salons
  • Real estate
  • Fitness

Although you can’t control or predict exactly when your business can reopen, one thing you can do is prepare yourself and employees to be in line with Phase II business safety guidelines for when that time comes.

What Regulations Does My Business Need to Follow?

The Governor’s office has provided a broad set of safety rules that your business will need to follow. Employers must ensure these general requirements:

  • Social distancing for employees and customers. Employees must keep at least six feet away from coworkers and the public, when feasible.
  • Controlled customer flow.
  • Frequent and adequate employee handwashing.
  • Facilities and surface sanitation. Routine and frequent cleaning is required.
  • Sick employees stay at home or go home if they feel ill. Set up procedures to address sick employees.
  • Provide basic workplace hazard education about coronavirus and how to prevent transmission in the language best understood by the employee.
  • Provide the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies to employees. PPE may be helpful when social distancing and other protective measures are infeasible or not effective.

In addition, there are industry-specific safety rules to follow. Some of these industries include:

Following the guidelines and regulations will not only help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it will help your business be better prepared to enter and shift during each phase launch.

How Can My Business Prepare?

Educate Yourself and Your Leadership. Review the safety rules for Phase II that apply to your business and create a plan to move forward.

Develop a COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Control & Response Plan. This document should:

  • Be specific to your workplace;
  • Identify all areas and job tasks with potential exposures to COVID-19;
  • Include responsibilities of managers, supervisors, and other project owners; and
  • Outline workplace practices for sanitation, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and preventative actions.

Hold Safety & Health COVID-19 Training for all workers. Educate your workforce on how COVID-19 spreads, CDC guidance, reducing exposure, social distancing, frequent & adequate sanitation, etc. Make sure to maintain an attendee roster for the training sessions.

Update Your Employee Handbook. Consider the future effectiveness of your employee handbook and adjust verbiage to meet your changing workplace standards. For example, a “work from home” policy should be implemented if applicable to ensure employees understand what your new work landscape looks like and manages their expectations as they navigate this new territory.

Openly Communicate Your Sick Leave Policy & Procedures to Address Sick Employees. Encourage workers to report concerns and use paid sick leave. Employers must also conduct COVID-19 screenings for all those entering the worksite.

Keep Yourself Updated with the Latest Resources:

Enlist Help

You are not alone – Speak with an attorney to document workplace plans, conduct employee training, guidance on employee handbook updates, and other COVID-19 Policies & Procedures. Contact us at 425-250-0205 or contact@equinoxbusinesslaw.com.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general information and should not be viewed as legal advice. You should talk with counsel familiar with your unique business needs before taking or refraining from any action.

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