With the recent relaunch strategy announcement by the Provincial Government, businesses will now need to shift focus to recovery readiness and determining strategies to return to work and reopen their businesses.

The Government has released general workplace guidance, sector specific guidance and planning for operations resources on the Alberta Biz Connect webpage.

We also recommend that part of your plan includes consideration for what you will do if we have a second wave and are required to move back to increased restrictions or closures. You can find Business Continuity Plans and Templates on our COVID-19 Information website page.

Step 1: Develop Your Operational Plan

1 . Develop your Plan

In order to open your business, you must develop a COVID-19 plan outlining how daily operations will be managed to meet the additional measures outlined by the Government. The workplace guidance for business owners outlines the criteria that should be addressed in written workplace policies and procedures established to address the COVID-19 pandemic response. All workplaces are expected to develop and implement these policies and procedures prior to re-opening or continuing operations after May 1, 2020. Industries or business with specialized operations or aspects may be subject to additional guidance. Any additional guidance made available is intended to augment this document. Based on the document, the workplace policies and procedures should outline:

a) Communication related to COVID-19

b) Policies for managing sick staff and/or volunteers

  • Employee or volunteer NOT diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Employee or volunteer diagnosed with COVID-19

c) Prevention measures including:

  • Screening
  • Hygiene
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Workplace bathrooms and showers
  • Distancing & gatherings in the workplace
  • Retail Items
  • Other options such as remote work, home delivery, drive through, take-out and curbside pick-up options

The Government of Alberta has provided a template to assist in the planning process to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among your staff and customers.

2. Conduct a hazard assessment

The hazard assessment and control process provides a consistent approach for employers and workers to identify and control hazards in the workplace. It allows everyone to focus their efforts in the right areas, and to develop worker training, inspections, emergency response plans, etc. specific to the hazards at their work sites. The Hazard Assessment and Control handbook provided by the Government of Alberta is a valuable resource tool to guide you through this process. You can also find the formal and site-specific hazard assessment and control templates here.

3. Plan for the Re-opening of your Building

Before occupants return to a building that has been vacated for a significant period of time, building owners, managers and operators may need to complete a variety of pre-return checks, tasks, and assessments to ensure a healthy and safe environment.  The safe six workplace readiness checklist linked here can assist in this process.

If your workplace has been closed for some time or has had reduced occupancy, it is important to flush your water system before re-opening to employees and/or customers. Water that has been sitting in your pipes for extended periods can get stale and lead to the growth of microbes that are potentially harmful to human health. Ensure good water quality and safe drinking water by thoroughly flushing your building’s water system.

4. Plan your Workforce Strategy

There may be several things you need to consider when you start to plan your return to work including employment standards changes, along with employment standards rules and workplace requirements for hazard assessments, temporary layoffsrecalls and terminations. You will need to be clear on your appropriate OHS legal response should an employee refuse to return to work or require flexibility around child care issues, which may change from week to week. Make sure you are aware of child care options locally for yourself and your team by using the Government of Alberta child care look up.

You can use the Canadian Business Resilience Network Re-Opening Toolkit found in our Business Resource section.

Step 2: Create a Communication Plan

1. Develop your internal communication plan

  • Have a plan to communicate with staff and/or volunteers. You can refer to the workplace guidance document for business owners for additional information. BDC also has a resource for employee communications during a crisis here.
  • Provide your staff with the appropriate language/phrases to address patrons who are not following the required protocols for your locations, while managing a professional demeanor.
  • Encourage your staff to report any additional concerns or ideas they may have once you reopen and be prepared to adjust.
  • Communicate expectations with your staff about how they can address concerns they have and provide them with an opportunity to voice concerns.

2. Develop your external communication plan

A communication plan for external contacts, customers, patrons of your business will assist in their understanding of your operations and the steps being taken by the workplace to prevent the risk of transmission of infection, and the importance of their roles in these measures. BDC has a resource on Sales and marketing planning during COVID-19 here.

3. Create awareness of how to prevent the spread

Create awareness by posting information and signage in areas where employees, volunteers and customers can refer to them – this includes doors, hallways, bathrooms, common areas and anywhere there may be a touch point that requires a reminder. Help prevent the spread information posters can be found here and through the Alberta Health Services website here.

4. Create your communication channel plan

Determine what channels you will use to communicate information to the public, including hours of operations, new processes and products.

  • Traditional Advertising may include billboards, posters and advertising. If using these channels, make sure to reference the advertising options through the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Make sure you update your Google My Business profile to provide the most accurate information to your customers. You can provide updates about your business to customers such as:
    • Your adjusted hours of operation, for instance if you close early.
    • If your business services are experiencing delays.
    • Extra services you are providing for the community.
    • If your business is “Temporarily closed”.

    The updates will show on your Business Profile on Google Search and Maps. Read more and view the YouTube video with Tips here.

  • Consider your Digital Marketing strategy and determine how you will use your website, social media communications and campaigns. Contact a digital marketing or social media specialist for guidance if you need help.

Step 3: Establish Physical Distancing Guidelines

Remember that this is not ‘business-as-usual’. In order to accommodate physical distancing requirements, patrons and staff must not be permitted to congregate in groups. This may (and likely will) result in alterations to how the workplace is set up, how the activity would normally occur or how patrons and staff would normally interact and go about business.

1. Determine work from home strategies

Determine if you and your employees are still able to work from home or if you still wish to continue with offering delivery or curbside pick up service. You can use the resource in our checklist and guidelines in our COVID-19 information page that provides guidance for working from home during a pandemic and the workplace Guidance for business owners also references the options for delivery and curbside pick up.

2. Determine how you will implement physical distancing requirements in the workplace

Patrons may partake in their activity while maintaining a minimum of two metres or six feet between themselves and others at all times (with the exception of members of the same household or ‘bubble’), so you will need to determine how to implement the distancing requirements, whether by signage, floor stickers, monitoring occupancy and number of clients coming into your building, along with placing signage outside and within your building.

3. Determine how you will monitor adherence to physical distancing requirements

Where possible, a designated staff member could monitor adherence to physical distancing requirements on premise. If this is not possible, determine other ways you can manage physical distancing, for example putting stickers on the floor showing people where they are able to stand or how you will direct traffic flow within your building.

4. Determine strategies for situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained

Situations where interfacing between staff and customers is common might deserve special considerations for mutual protection. Consider different hazard controls to manage these situations:

  • First choice| Engineering controls: These control the hazard at the source. Examples include placing barriers or partitions between staff, removing seats from lunch rooms and dining areas, re-arranging lockers, restricting general access to the business and increasing ventilation.
  • Second choice| Administrative controls: These controls change the way workers, volunteer and patrons interact. Examples include policies for physical distancing, limiting hours of operations and respiratory etiquette and providing adequate facilities, supplies and reminders for hand hygiene. Increased frequency of cleaning as outlined above is also required.
  • Third choice| PPE: PPE is necessary when physical distancing of 2 metres or physical barriers cannot be maintained by administrative and engineering controls. PPE controls the hazard at the worker, volunteer and client level. Examples of PPE include gloves, eye protection, gown, face protections, procedure/surgical masks or NIOSH-N95 masks. Find a PPE local supplier.

When a hazard cannot be controlled by a single control method, the business owner should utilize a combination of these controls to provide an acceptable level of safety.

* There is guidance on how to prevent the spread on the Government of Alberta website and in our prevention section of our COVID-19 information website page.

Step 4: Set Your Processes and Procedures for Cleaning, Hygiene and PPE

1. Determine your Pre-Screening tools and processes

Businesses and organizations should advise that staff and patrons who are either symptomatic and/or have been advised by Public Health to self-isolate, should remain home and not enter the premises. Operators should actively pre-screen staff before the beginning of each shift. The government’s pre-screening questionnaire example can be found here.

2. Determine your Cleaning and Disinfection Procedures

Cleaning refers to the removal of visible soil. Cleaning does not kill germs but is highly effective at removing them from a surface. Disinfecting refers to using a chemical to kill germs on a surface. Disinfecting is only effective after surfaces have been cleaned, so you will want to outline your process for each and refer to the Workplace Guidance for Business Owners for information in addition to the Government of Canada resource on cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during COVID-19.

3. Facilitate and Communicate Personal Hygiene Etiquette

There is further guidance on these measures in the workplace Guidance for business owners and in our prevention section of our COVID-19 information website page.

4. Obtain Required PPE

Risk of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 can be mitigated using multiple strategies in combination. The first strategy is to avoid situations and people that pose a risk, by having people stay home when ill and maintaining a two-metre distance from others. When it’s not possible to avoid contact with others, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette are very important to reduce spread. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and gloves, can be used in certain situations to protect people from infectious diseases. You can find the Alberta Health Service Guidelines for PPE here. You can find local PPE suppliers here.

In the event that specific PPE is not available locally or through suppliers, employers can access the Provincial Operations Centre (POC) website to order PPE. Once you’ve completed your request via the form a confirmation notification will be sent. For issues with PPE orders, employers can follow up with a query to: ma.ppesupport@gov.ab.ca .

There is also a national Rapid Response Platform that automatically matches supply with demand, simplifying supplier discovery during the procurement process. View the platform here.

Step 5: Look for Sector Specific Guidance

We know that some sectors have different requirements due to the nature of each specific industry. You can find a list of resources through the Government of Alberta Biz Connect website and through the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Make sure to discuss this with your association, professional body or within a group of similar industry businesses.

If there are not guidance documents provided by the Government or for your specific industry, work together to come up with common guidelines that would meet the minimum requirements outlined by the Government of Alberta. If there is work done already within very specific industries, send your guidelines recommendation to: health.minister@gov.ab.ca for review. If you have questions about your specific industry and are uncertain as to how the guidelines or relaunch strategy applies to your business, email: Bizconnect@gov.ab.ca.

Last updated: May 20, 2020.
Brought to you by the Sherwood Park & District Chamber of Commerce with great appreciation to the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce.