From keeping daily logs of worker health to frequent, thorough sanitizing to filing safety plans with the New York State Department of Health, measures required for businesses slated to open during phase one of the state’s reopening plan are extensive.
The goal of New York’s phased reopening plan is to open the industries with the greatest economic impact and lowest risk of spreading coronavirus to employees or customers.
Dubbed “NY Forward,” the plan includes four phases. With each phase — implemented about two weeks apart, a sector of the business community may open, with mandatory safety guidelines and monitoring.
Phase one includes construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing, wholesale trade, manufacturing, and retail, restricted to curbside pickup only.
In phase two, professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, real estate, rental and leasing services may recommence.
Phase three sees the reopening of restaurants and food services, with phase four focused on arts, recreation, entertainment and education.
All essential businesses that have been open through the crisis may continue to be so.
According to the NY Forward Reopening Guide, three priorities must be considered when a business reopens. Ensuring the protection of workers and customers is the first priority.
Next, business owners must make changes to their physical workplace — require masks and strict sanitizing protocols. Finally, businesses have to consider instituting such health monitoring measures as taking employees’ temperatures, and alerting customers to confirmed positive cases among staff members.
An additional reopening resource located on the forward.ny.gov website offers detailed guidance regarding how particular industries and businesses may move ahead, listing both mandates and recommended best practices.
Mandatory measures listed in the guidance pertain to physical distancing, protective equipment, cleaning, communication, and screening.
The reopening plan requires companies to ensure a 6-foot distance between workers, unless a task requires closer work. In that case, protective face coverings are required. With indoor work, supervisors must limit staff to no more than one worker per 650 square feet, unless the employee is masked at all times. Tightly confined places like elevators and hoists must have only one person in them, unless everyone is wearing a mask. The posting of social distancing markers is required at such places as clock-in sites and health-screening stations.
The plan requires placing limits on in-person meetings and using tele- or video-conferencing whenever possible. Essential in-person gatherings should be held in open, well-ventilated places. To limit contact, pickup and delivery areas must be designated.
Specific to the non-food agriculture industry, is a requirement that the viewing of horses and other animals for sale or breeding must take place in an outdoor arena by appointment only. Riding lessons or offering horses for hire must also take place outside by appointment, with social distance compliance.
Specific guidance for the commercial fishing industry calls for no more than the minimum number of crew members necessary for safe vessel operation. On all other boats, no more than the maximum number of people who can stay 6 feet apart are permitted, unless they are all members of the same household. Face coverings are required when staff can’t maintain 6 foot social distancing, and passengers aboard for-hire vessels must use face coverings unless they are under 3 years of age or cannot medically tolerate such covering. Walk-in fishing is permitted so long as personal contact is minimized.
No fishing equipment may be shared without first being cleaned and disinfected. Nets and gaffs may only be handled by crew members. Cleaning and disinfection must occur after every trip, daily, or more frequently as needed. All areas of the vessel must be cleaned at the beginning and end of each trip. Boats that offer food service must abide by regulations in place for all food service establishments.
For every industry opening during phase one, it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide face coverings at no cost to staff, the plan mandates. It also directs businesses to limit the sharing of tools, machinery, materials, and vehicles. If that’s not possible, gloves must be provided for staff.
Employers must provide hand hygiene stations for staff, and keep hand sanitizer available. They must also provide cleaning and disinfecting supplies for the times when items or surfaces are shared. Rest rooms and common rooms must be cleaned and disinfected daily, and shared food and beverages must be prohibited.
To communicate compliance, business owners may access an affirmation document on the forward.ny.gov website. A template for a business safety plan is also located on the site, and must be posted conspicuously.
Employees are required to post signs about proper safety protocols throughout their establishments and job sites. They are required to maintain a continuous log of every person, including workers and visitors, who may have close contact with others on the site, and notify state and local health departments if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
Employers must implement mandatory health screenings that include a questionnaire and temperature check at the beginning of each work day. Employees will be asked about symptoms, positive diagnoses, or contact with confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients. Responses to the questions must be reviewed daily and documented.
The business’s safety plan must include a plan for disinfecting and contact tracing should a worker test positive.
Under NY Forward, construction encompasses an array of separate business categories related to the industry. Building equipment and building finishing contractors, foundation, structure and building exterior contractors, highway, street and bridge contractors are all included, as are residential and nonresidential building construction, utility system construction, and land subdivision.
State guidance for the segment of industry labeled “retail trade” includes most stores. Clothing, shoe, furniture, jewelry, office supplies, health and personal care items, lawn and garden supplies, sporting goods, and even used merchandise stores may open under phase one. But, no browsing. The stores may open for delivery, curbside, and in-store pickup service only.
The physical distancing, protective, cleaning, and screening rules all apply, and are supplemented by recommended best practices.
To allow for social distancing, the state suggests creating additional space for employees adjusting hours to spread employee and customer traffic over a longer period of time, and creating teams to stagger arrival and departure times for staff.
Plastic shielding walls are encouraged to assist with creating safe distances between employees and customers. Bi-directional foot traffic in aisles and hallways is discouraged; signs with arrows are suggested. Avoiding direct handoffs to customers by scheduling their arrivals, and implementing touchless delivery systems and encouraging touchless payment are another trio of suggestions.
Stores should prepare a plan for returns and be sure to sanitize hands after exchanges.
Frequent cleaning of shared objects like registers and payment devices, as well as high transit areas, is mandated.
Under the communication section of guidance for retail trade, the state also suggests using social media to provide customers with instructions for ordering and pickup. It recommends health screenings take place remotely, with survey questions answered by telephone or device, before a clerk reports to the store. It asks business owners to encourage customers to complete a health screening and provide contact information so they may be logged and contacted if there’s a need.