Safety first: 10 best practices
- Keep up with evolving COVID-19 requirements. Update your safety plan as needed and communicate changes to employees and customers.
- Follow the enforcement activities of provincial and local agencies, including Public Health. Their activities may indicate opportunities for improvement in your workplace. Expect the focus to shift as health priorities change.
- Continue to clearly indicate COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing masks and hand sanitizing before customers and suppliers enter. Highlight any recent changes in precautions.
- Maintain hand sanitation stations close to entrances, and ensure they stay tidy, functional and visible.
- Enforce capacity limits so long as they remain a requirement. A crowded store may deter customers from entering.
- Be vigilant with housekeeping. A store that looks, feels and smells clean will reassure customers that you’re on top of the situation, regardless of what it is.
- Even if plexiglass barriers are no longer required, consider keeping them in place. They do a great job of protecting workers and customers from COVID-19, and could help protect everyone from other hazards.
- Be on guard against COVID-related anger. We saw it early on in the pandemic and it could flare again. Ensure your security systems— panic buttons, cameras, alarms—are working properly. Train employees on how to recognize threats, defuse potential conflict, and activate assistance if needed.
- Ensure employees and customers are aware of what you’re doing to protect them, and their role in protecting themselves.
- Be mindful of other potential hazards such as slips, trips and falls, repetitive strain, and unsafe or excessive lifting.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far
· Viruses like COVID-19 may die out or survive indefinitely. Remember SARS? It disappeared with little human intervention. However, other viruses continue circulating. Since the COVID-19 pandemic could become endemic—occurring regularly but at low levels of infection or illness—it may be necessary to continue minimizing the possibility of transmission into the future.
· COVID-19 vaccinations aren’t a cure-all. They may be a person’s best defence against the virus, but vaccinated people can still contract and spread it.
· We’ll never vaccinate everybody. Experts now say achieving herd immunity could require a 90% vaccination rate, but that may be beyond reach. Since much of the world remains partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, more infectious variants may emerge, such as Delta and the more recent Lambda variants.
Here’s what we can draw from this
· A post-vaccination world isn’t necessarily a post-pandemic world. COVID-19 precautions may be with us for a while.
· COVID-19 preventive measures work. They can even keep us healthier. A link exists between COVID-19 precautions and declining infection rates for influenza, the common cold, and childhood illnesses, such as chickenpox and measles.
What does this mean for employees and customers entering a convenience store or gas bar a few months from now? The risk of transmission may be lower, but people may still be required to wear face coverings, regularly wash or sanitize their hands, conduct transactions through plexiglass barriers, and so on.
How to survive and thrive in this post-vaccination world
For convenience store and gas bar operators, surviving and thriving means taking a longer view by integrating your short-term COVID-19 measures into longer term health and safety practices.
My number one recommendation is to create a written COVID-19 safety plan if you don’t already have one.
A safety plan documents what your workplace needs to do to prevent transmission, and how to do it. These plans are a legal requirement in some jurisdictions, such as British Columbia and Ontario, but in any jurisdiction they’re a useful way to implement best practices.
Free templates and instructions and sample plans are readily available online. Even better, you can use your COVID-19 safety plan to create plans for other workplace hazards. This makes the plans particularly handy for small businesses and companies with multiple locations. No formal health and safety expertise is required to draft a plan for your workplace.
Final words: As we enter a post-vaccination world, take time to review, assess and improve health and safety practices. They will help you keep everyone safe, sustain important relationships, and ensure your business continues operating efficiently.