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Posted on May 15, 2020
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
That’s what Massachusetts employers can expect today as Governor Charlie Baker announces details of a four-stage re-opening plan designed to allow the economy to get back up and running after the COVID-19 shutdown.
The Baker Administration has been circumspect about what the governor will say, but guidance provided to cities and towns suggests that that manufacturing and construction companies, as well as houses of worship, will be allowed to resume operations as soon as today.
The Boston Globe reports that offices would be permitted to open May 25 at 25 percent capacity, though workers in Boston won’t be allowed to return to their buildings until June 1 and the capacity limit will be smaller, perhaps 10 percent in the first week and rising periodically thereafter.
Businesses that are set to get the green light from the state to open their doors May 25 as part of the first of four reopening phases include barbershops, hair salons, and recreational marijuana shops, the Globe said.
The governor has been clear that the timing and cadence of re-opening will be based on progress in containing the novel coronavirus and the ability of employers to meet both general and industry specific Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards.
The standards cover social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting.
“The governor’s announcement marks the beginning, not the end of the journey for employers as they seek to protect the health and safety of employees, customers and visitors. Businesses must develop detailed plans to re-open using clear guidance set by authorities regarding the conditions for operating,” said John Regan, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM).
AIM today launched a broad initiative to help companies navigate the complex issues of getting back to work or, in the case of essential businesses, continuing to work.
The association plans a free webinar tomorrow entitled Return to the Workplace – Here’s What We Know. The briefing will feature Michael Kennealy, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and Thomas Wesley, Senior Director of Facilities, Environmental Health & Safety and Real Estate at Waters Corporation and chair of the AIM Task Force on Re-Opening.
Later tomorrow, AIM will make available an 80-page Return to the Workplace Guide, a handbook for employers that provides straightforward guidance, templates and checklists on inviting employees back to work, workplace safety issues and compliance with state and federal regulations. The Guide – a collaboration among AIM, AIM HR Solutions and A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company – is free of charge to all employers and will be available after 2 pm in the AIM Web Store.
“We’re going to be pulling an all-nighter tonight to ensure that all of the guidance contained in the Guide conforms to the blueprint articulated today by Governor Baker,” said Kyle Pardo, Vice President of Consulting Services at AIM and one of the authors of the Return to the Workplace Guide.
The four phases of re-opening announced last week by Governor Baker – called Start, Cautious, Vigilant and the New Normal – are designed to methodically allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume, while protecting public health and limiting a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases.
The Start phase will allow the re-opening of industries that are best able to limit face-to-face interaction and transmission risks. All businesses will face a range of new mandatory safety standards once they resume operations, and state officials will also lay out industry-specific requirements. Employers will need to attest that they comply with these new rules.
During the initial stage, every workplace must ensure that all employees, customers and vendors stay at least six feet apart as often as possible, wear masks, and perform regular cleaning and disinfecting.
The remaining three phases:
Regan said employers are committed to working with state government to ensure a smooth re-start to the economy.
“As we look towards a sustainable return to the workplace, that each employer, each employee and resident along with federal, state and local governments have a role to do the very best we can to avoid additional spread or spikes of the virus that requires a company or industry to shut down,” Regan said.