Operating a Garage When It’s Not ‘Business As Usual’

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on daily life, many shop owners are looking forward to returning to normalcy. However, it appears that reality remains in the distant future as a “new normal” takes hold. Although a solution for one is not a solution for all, businesses that have reopened should follow guidelines set by the following organizations:

Many of these guidelines are workplace specific and depend on services offered and the state or county of operation. It is essential to complete extensive due diligence to protect customers and employees. Just because a business is allowed to reopen in one region of the country doesn’t automatically mean operations will be allowed to resume in another. As such, it is critical to understand and review all relevant state and local orders.

Understanding the Risks

Safely restarting your business isn’t as simple as unlocking the front door. Before reopening, businesses should perform a risk assessment to determine what steps must be taken. While the complexity of risk assessments differs from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:

  1. Identifying the hazards: When it comes to COVID-19, business owners must think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person enters their facility. When identifying hazards, it is important to perform a walkthrough of the premises and consider high-risk areas, which include employee breakrooms and customer waiting areas. Public areas must be monitored as well, as social distancing guidelines are mandated.
  2. Determining who may be harmed and how: Once you have identified hazards to your business, determine which populations of your workforce are at a greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Based on your employees’ roles, consider certain tasks that may pose a higher risk, and which employees are performing them. When completing this evaluation, you will also need to make note of these high-risk individuals, which include staff members who meet with customers or vendors versus those who do not. Examine how employees could be exposed and at the same time expose other customers, vendors, or colleagues.
  3. Assessing risks: Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyze them to determine their potential consequences. For each risk, determine:
    • How likely is this to occur?
    • What are the ramifications should this occur?

When assessing your risks, consider potential financial losses, compliance requirements, employee safety, business disruptions, reputational harm and other consequences.

  1. Controlling risks: After you determine your potential business threats, you can consider how to address them. There are a variety of methods businesses can use to manage their risks, including risk avoidance. Risk avoidance is when a business eliminates certain hazards, activities and exposures from their operations altogether. For instance, if an employee does not need to enter a customer’s car to perform their work, company mandates should be put in place to document the new procedure and establish customer notification accordingly. An additional risk management method is risk control. This involves preventive action, like written and procedural safeguards, that protect both the employee and the customer. In the case of COVID-19, this often starts with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and ends with housekeeping and hygiene procedures.
  2. Monitoring results: This is critical as business evolves. Determine if your procedures are effective and efficient to the business practice. By monitoring and frequently reassessing the effectiveness of your procedures, workflows will start to normalize. Remember, COVID-19 risks can change over time, so adapting to those changes is critical to a successful plan. Disinfecting the interior of a car may work one way in a warm climate and another in cold climates, so stay nimble in your approach.

Thankfully, there are a number of OSHA and CDC workplace guidelines to consider if your risk assessment determines that COVID-19 poses a threat to your employees or customers. You should continue to keep an open dialogue with vendors and partners and talk about your response plans. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities, especially those in your supply chain.

Implementing Best Practices

Encourage social distancing: Social distance by increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. In terms of COVID-19, social distancing best practices for businesses can include:

  • Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
  • Instructing workers to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people
  • Requiring masks
  • Hosting meetings virtually when possible
  • Limiting the number of people on the job site to essential personnel only
  • Encouraging or requiring staff to work from home when possible
  • Discouraging people from shaking hands
  • Managing the different risk levels of your employees

Promote good hygiene: Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This can involve providing tissues, no-touch disposal receptacles, hand sanitizers, hands-free hand sanitation in all rooms, routine environmental cleaning and disinfection and discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect tools and equipment before and after use. Provide disposable wipes so that employees can wipe down commonly used surfaces before each use.

Continued safety while resuming operations following the COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a daunting task, but businesses don’t have to go through it alone. To help with this process, organizations can seek the help of their insurance professionals to determine what actions they need to take to ensure their businesses reopen smoothly. By implementing administrative controls to protect workers and customers, utilizing PPE, training staff on best practices and keeping open lines of communication with customers and employees, we will all get through this unusual time and get back to the things we are most passionate about: customizing cars and the myriad motorsports they inspire.

About This Sponsored Content

Alliant Insurance Services is one of the nation’s leading and fastest growing distributors of diversified insurance products and services. In the face of increasing complexity, our approach is simple: bring on the best people and invest more deeply in the industries and clients we serve. We operate through a network of specialized national platforms and regional offices to offer a comprehensive portfolio of services to our clients. Our goal is to ensure that they get the most innovative products—and innovative thinking—in the industry.

Alliant Insurance Services is a national insurance brokerage serving the automotive aftermarket and the endorsed broker of the Specialty Equipment Market Association – SEMA, and manager of the Installers Edge garage insurance program. Visit revproinsurance.com for more information or call 800-390-9099.

Alliant note and disclaimer: This article is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal or tax advice, or legal or tax opinions. If a legal or tax opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal or tax advisor. This article is provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this article.

A.J. Hecht

A.J. Hecht is the managing editor of THE SHOP and host of the In Gear with THE SHOP podcast. Have an idea, a tip, or a question you’d like to see answered? Contact A.J. at ahecht@cahabamedia.com.

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