Prioritizing Health & Safety for Building Owners & Facility Managers

By Jason Vanderground April 2 2020 Irwin Tips

2020-3-irwin-seating-prioritize-health-safety-covid-19The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the way many countries and communities operate and has impacted many aspects of our daily lives. While the health and safety of staff and patrons is always important for building owners and facility managers, these are top priorities now more than ever.

Below, we’ve laid out ways to prioritize the health and safety of your venue’s staff during the pandemic.

Health & Safety in COVID-19 Pandemic

Of course, the most important thing to do is follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as your local or state authorities on operating restrictions in your area. Some steps you can take as an individual are washing hands frequently with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, sanitizing regularly used objects and surfaces, and keeping at least 6ft of distance between you and others as much as possible.

The International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) has compiled and continues to update an online resource center with information on COVID-19 for venue and event managers, such as cleaning and safety guidelines, updates on the situation, and disease outbreak security resources.

Many state governments have issued shelter-in-place orders and temporary closures for certain businesses, including restaurants, hair salons, theaters, and arenas, to prevent large gatherings of people during this time. Many venues are offering ways to help their local communities while they unable to host events, such as offering their venue for field hospital operations or additional quarantine space. Others are offering concessions for take-out and delivery, or donating food and supplies to local organizations.

Managing Health of Employees

In states where shelter-in-place orders have been issued, failure to comply with the order as defined by your state government is punishable by a fine or other penalty. As the building owner or facility manager, it is important to convey to your employees that they need to adhere to the instructions provided by state and federal authorities.

Even in areas where shelter-in-place is not mandatory, it’s best to set up remote work options for as many operations as possible. Remote work is vital to preventing the spread of disease and protecting the health and safety of your staff and the community.

Tips for Remote Work

Remote work can be difficult, especially for those not familiar with remote work or for extended periods of time. While you and your staff are working from home during social distancing mandates, these are some helpful tips for maintaining connections and staying productive:

  • Utilize video conferencing tools like Zoom, UberConference, and Google Hangouts to have in-person virtual meetings. Even when we can't be together in the office, seeing coworkers' and clients' faces is helpful for conversations and maintains connections with others during times of isolation.
  • Have regular full team meetings to talk about what's happening, where people may have questions or need help, and celebrate wins is important to keep the team connected and work flowing normally. These meetings don't need to be exceptionally long, and fifteen or thirty minutes a couple times a week is enough.
  • Utilize cloud technology for document and file sharing like DropBox and Google Drive. This gives you the ability to share files between your team and any clients while controlling editing permissions, if needed.
  • Make sure your team knows they can reach out to you if they are struggling. Many may not just be working from home, and they may also be juggling caring for children and loved ones who are also unexpectedly home. Compassion and empathy are important during this time, and we touch more on helping employees with mental health below.
  • Many companies are hosting virtual happy hours to give employees a break and a chance to connect and chat about things that aren't work. Take some time to give your employees this opportunity.

Best Health & Safety Practices for On-Site Workers

If your establishment has remained open or you still have essential staff on site, these are some additional steps to protect the health of your staff and patrons:

  • Enforce policies that if employees feel sick or have been in contact with someone who is sick they need to stay home
  • Reduce hours during this time to allow more time to deep clean and disinfect at the end of the day
  • Increase cleaning throughout the day to wipe down and disinfect high traffic areas
  • Provide personal protective equipment (gloves, masks, ect.) as well as hand sanitizer for essential employees during operations where they must be in close contact with one another or patrons
  • Stagger work schedules of essential in-person employees to reduce the number of people in the building at any time
  • Perform as much work as possible using 6ft of distance between people

If you feel your establishment cannot safely provide services at this time, temporary closure is an option, even if it is not mandatory by your local government.

Don’t Forget About Mental Health

This is an unprecedented situation that is stressful at least and panic-inducing at worst. Many people in your community, including your employees, are worried about how this situation will play out and the lasting effects it will have on their lives. Don’t forget about resources to help with mental health, especially in times of crisis.

Acknowledging that fear and anxiety are normal responses in a crisis is important to remind employees that their fears are shared. Offer virtual resources to help employees manage their anxiety during this time. Remind your staff of any existing employee assistance programs (EAPs) to connect with counselors and help manage concerns like child care and medical bills.

Additionally, there are plenty of free resources online for anyone to access that offer tips on dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression during a crisis. Share these articles from Psychology Today and The Conversation with your staff to offer support and coping strategies.

Remote work, while necessary to prevent the spread of germs, is taxing on people, especially for those who may live alone. Utilize video conferencing services like Zoom or Skype for meetings and conversations instead of trying to handle everything over email. It’s important to remain in virtual contact with coworkers, friends, and family to help deal with the struggle of isolation.

Cleaning & Disinfecting Your Venue’s Seating

Seating can be difficult to completely clean and disinfect, but it is absolutely important and should be done thoroughly. The CDC recommends using a diluted bleach solution for all non-porous (hard) surfaces. A solution that is at least 1000ppm of sodium hypochlorite (1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water) should be left on the surface for at least one minute to effectively disinfect the surface.

For seating, Irwin recommends the following for hard surfaces and coated upholstery:

  • Coated fabrics like vinyl and polyurethane upholstery can be disinfected with a 5:1 water/bleach solution, wiped down completely, rinsed with clear water, and toweled dry.
  • Hard plastic seating and chair backs can be cleaned with any disinfecting surface cleaner, like sanitizing wipes and the bleach solution mentioned above.
  • Make sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize every part of every chair.

For soft surfaces like fabrics, clean surfaces with recommended manufacturer detergents in the warmest water safe for each type of fabric. Allow appropriate time to dry completely.

Cleaning staff should wear disposable gloves and gowns compatible with the cleaning products being used, and they should wash their hands thoroughly before and after cleaning tasks.

If you have questions about cleaning any Irwin seating products, please reach out to us.

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