5 major changes the CDC says to make before reopening

By Lorena Schott | July 6, 2020

States are lifting shutdown orders and employees are slowly returning to their workplaces. But you can’t just swing the doors open. Every process in your organization needs to be rethought because each step carries huge potential safety and legal risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly dropped a bombshell for employers trying to figure out how to safely reopen their office buildings as the coronavirus pandemic wanes. The CDC’s new guidance calls for major changes that will be difficult for many employers to make.

For example, the CDC advises employers to bar seating in common areas, spread desks at least six feet apart and restrict elevator capacity to allow six feet between occupants.

The guidance calls on employers to address the following before reopening:

  1. Assess the building. The CDC says the first step is to determine if the building you locked up three months ago is physically able to open. Unoccupied buildings can quickly become hazardous. Mold may thrive. Unused plumbing may harbor legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease. Rodents and other pests may have moved in.
  2. Evaluate hazards. Employers must figure out where returning workers might contract COVID-19 at work. Identify areas where workers will be within six feet of one another. Examples: meeting rooms, break rooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, waiting areas, entrances and exits.
  3. Isolate workers from hazards. The CDC suggests installing transparent shields to separate employees and visitors. Reconfigure reception areas and communal seating spaces; remove seating and space out chairs. Get rid of high-touch, communal items like coffee pots, water coolers and snack bins.
  4. Change behavior to reduce infection. Reiterating familiar advice, the CDC again urges employers to tell workers with COVID-19 symptoms or sick family members to stay home. Any employee who becomes sick at work must be immediately isolated, provided with a mask and sent home to follow up with their doctor. Immediately shut down the employee’s workstation so it can be cleaned and disinfected.  Educate employees and supervisors. Offer coronavirus safety training to all staff, including supervisors.
  5. Cover the community spread dangers of using public transportation and carpools to get to and from work. Stagger shifts for those who must use public transportation so they can avoid rush hour peak times.

Every business needs a strong plan for a successful reopening of the workplace for customers and employees. For additional resources and information, please join WESST consultants and trainers as we present the latest best practices, tips and techniques for returning safely to work with your employees and customers in mind. For the latest schedule, please visit the WESST Upcoming Workshops.

About the Author


Lorena Schott

Lorena Schott is a native New Mexican that brings a wealth of experience to the WESST team. Before joining WESST in 2009, she worked for Intel where she was acknowledged for her establishment of Intel’s centralized on-line system, rewarding and recognizing employees worldwide.

Posted in