By Sean Delaney
Published by The Ontario Chamber of Commerce- Summary by Sean Delaney
The amount of information now published, along with questions you should ask yourself and employees about your business and directions you should take, is quite overwhelming. In addition to supplying appropriate links, we are attempting to publish some important questions and observations to stimulate discussion.
Please take the time to follow some or all of the resource links below. These may be challenging days ahead for businesses. Feel free also to use the Emery Village BIA as a resource tool.
Visit their site at: www.emeryvillagebia.ca .OVERVIEW
The health, safety and well-being of our staff members and community are of the utmost importance to us. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19), previously known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, is a pandemic that already has or will imminently disrupt the operations of employers, the health care system, and public institutions. Businesses must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to respond to protect public health and ensure the continued essential operations of their organizations.
Businesses need to be prepared for any human-resources or operational-related disruptions. Organizations need to consider whether and how some aspects of their operations can be continued remotely. While some companies have opted to have their staff work from home, working virtually from home is essential if quarantines and self-isolation are required. It is equally important to anticipate staff absences for periods of about two weeks at the height of a severe pandemic wave and lower levels of staff absence for a few weeks either side of the peak.
The guidelines and resources contained in this toolkit have been prepared to help businesses plan for and adapt to the disruption of COVID-19 and any future influenza pandemics.POSSIBLE IMPACTS ON YOUR BUSINESSES
A pandemic may have several impacts on your business; for example, customer orders may be cancelled or cannot be filled, supplies of materials needed for ongoing business activity may be disrupted.
And further problems can be expected if goods are imported by air or land over international borders. The availability of services from sub-contractors may be affected (this may affect the maintenance of key equipment). Demand for business services may be affected – demand for some services may increase (e.g. internet access, anything health-related); while demand for others may fall (e.g. tourism, cultural events, marketing and promotion). Public meetings and gatherings may be cancelled by authorities or organizers due to concerns about the spread of the virus and/or anticipated low attendance. For example, Ottawa health officials are now asking for events of all sizes to be cancelled. All businesses are likely to be concerned about the immediate financial impacts of a pandemic. Some options to consider as you adapt to a period of disruption include:
Review and understand your business interruption insurance, audit payable and receivable transactions, reconsider capital investment plans, assess your variable costs to determine where they could be lowered or eliminated, or converted to fixed costs, consider alternative financing options and consider alternative revenue streams.
Work from home - several companies (that can) have chosen to allow their employees to work from home, closing their offices to outside visitors or suspending all in-person contact until the public health risk reduces.STAFF ABSENCES
The most significant impact on your business is likely to be staff absences. During an outbreak or pandemic, staff absences can be expected for many reasons, including: personal illness/incapacity or heightened vulnerability to the coronavirus due to an underlying condition, government-directed requirement to prevent the spread of the virus, self-isolate or quarantine, staying at home to care for ill family members and looking after school-aged children in the event school is closed.DECISION-MAKING AND REPORTING
Who will be in charge and make decisions within your business concerning services during a pandemic or emergency episode? What will be the mechanism for regular reporting to your management staff/boards/government (which-ever are appropriate for your organization) councils during a pandemic episode? Is there a contact list of all internal and external client and partner agencies, supply chain partners and stakeholders?MATERIALS MANAGEMENT
Are you currently stocked with all necessary supplies for regular day-to-day functions?
Does your business have contact lists for all your suppliers and alternate suppliers?
Does your company have access to inventory (including serial numbers) of all computer equipment, printers, mobile phones, photocopy machines, etc. in case repairs are needed?
Does your business have contact lists for all equipment repairpersons?
Who authorizes repairs and supply/equipment orders?
Are there other employees who can take over this responsibility in the event of an emergency?
Has an inventory been prepared for specialized equipment/facilities that may be needed during a pandemic episode?
Is there a mechanism that will ensure that additional equipment, e.g., mobile phones, broadband internet capacity, etc. can be obtained with minimum delay?
Who has authority for ordering repair/replacement equipment, and who is that person’s back up?SUPPORTING EMPLOYEES
Regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act must also be kept in mind in the event of a pandemic. Both the Industrial Establishment Regulation (Regulation 851) and the Health Care and Residential Facilities Regulation (Regulation 67/93) touch upon the threat to health and safety arising from biological agents and infectious disease.
Ministry of Labour guidelines are another potential source of emergency management guidance. For example, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) has published guidelines on “Workplace Exposure and Illnesses”, “Flu and Your Workplace” and “Infection Prevention and Control.”
Although they do not have the force of law, ministry guidelines are a valid source of reference for attaining compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act as they are issued by the agency responsible for enforcing the act.
You will also want to keep your employees up to date on the mitigation measures you are employing to both reassure them and to gain their buy-in for managing disruptions to the business. These measures include regular and consistent communication with your employees so they understand the severity of the pandemic and the preventative measures everyone should undertake. Regular and consistent communication regarding the steps your business is taking to prepare for/adapt to the pandemic, including their expected roles, and development of a business continuity plan that is shared with employees.FURTHER RESOURCES
In the event of an emergency, contact your local Public Health Unit. Public Health Ontario and local Public Health Units are monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and can provide advice and direction regarding steps to be taken by individuals experiencing symptoms or who fear they have contracted the illness. The Medical Officer of Health is responsible for critical services governed by the Board of Health in each Local Health Unit. He or she is endowed with broad powers under the Health Protection and Pro-motion Act, and these may impact on your business and employees.
Your local public health units will have released pandemic plans for their communities. Some of the plans contain information dedicated to the business community, including helpful tools and suggestions.
Also, consider consulting the following resources to assist with your planning and deployment efforts:GOVERNMENT
The Ontario Ministry of Health website contains information on the COVID-19 pandemic, including the current status of the outbreak. See also the MOL for workplace health and safety information.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has a dedicated page for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Health Organization website provides up-to-date information on the spread of the pandemic.OTHER RESOURCES
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has prepared a pandemic toolkit.
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce has adapted their award-winning emergency preparedness toolkit for COVID-19.
The Ontario Medical Association has developed an FAQ about the coronavirus and personal health at: virusfacts.ca.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has a general Business Continuity Plan for pandemics.
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services has a Business Pandemic Preparedness Checklist. Stay up to date at: occ.ca.