Here are some tips and resources to help you and your employees minimize COVID-19 risk by taking the SMART approach.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unexpected and profound impact on daily life and business. We have seen how the practice of social distancing has led to the cancellation of large public gatherings, modified workplace schedules, closure of schools, and limited operations at restaurants and bars. People and businesses must keep up with the changing response strategies from national and local officials and make rapid decisions to adapt accordingly. Most of these changes have led to a decrease in operations and workforce, and a shift to a work from home (WFH) strategy. While these changes are designed to decrease the exposure to and spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is also important to ensure these changes do not increase the exposures to loss from other sources. Here are some tips and resources to help you and your employees minimize that risk by taking the SMART approach.

Set up WFH environments and practices to match at-work environments as much as possible.

Remind employees to designate a work space and make it as ergonomically friendly as possible. It should support good posture, minimize lifting, twisting and reaching, maintain clear access and good housekeeping to avoid trips and/or falls. When employees WFH, they should keep a schedule similar to that of an average work day: set goals, maintain routine contact, and take breaks as they normally would. Establishing a normalcy to your WFH environment will help you reduce stress and complete the work that must be done.

Make sure that employees are capable and qualified to perform any newly assigned tasks.

As shifts in workplace staffing and business operations change, so too may the tasks that employees are called upon to complete. It is critical to make sure that employees are qualified and trained for these tasks to minimize the risk of personal injury or property damage. This could range from having a waiter in a restaurant serve as a delivery driver in the company van, to having an office worker in the warehouse operating the cardboard bailing machine. An unqualified operator performing an unfamiliar task with unfamiliar equipment could have disastrous consequences.

Assess the impact of curtailed or shut-down operations on sensitive stock or processes.

This may not impact an office operation as much as manufacturing, warehousing or restaurants, but take time to consider what must be done to minimize property and equipment damage. Should grease fryers be drained, do supply lines need to be bled, do current commodities have expiration dates and can they be returned or salvaged, do maintenance tasks need to be scheduled?

Review critical operations to ensure proper shut-down and safe re-start.

This applies more so when facilities or operations are being closed for a designated time as part of the COVID-19 response. Similar to implementing an Emergency Action Plan, some building systems and operations require a specific shut-down and re-start procedure, while others may need to run continuously to maintain safety and prevent loss, such as burglar and fire detection systems. These procedures should be established, communicated and implemented to ensure safety and minimize the risk of equipment or property damage.

Team up with your insurance agent, business groups and local officials.

This is an unprecedented event and the stress and fluidity of responding to it increases the likelihood of overlooking a corrective action that could minimize the occurrence or impact of a loss.

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