Maintaining Individual Health and Safety while Staying in Business
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing regular changes to daily life, and suggestions for essential businesses are being altered daily.
The one issue I hear from wineries right now is the stress of not knowing what to do in the current moment: how to stay in business and keep employees employed while also maintaining their employees’ and customers’ safety. (There’s also the balancing act of taking care of family members while trying to run the business.)
With this in mind, here is the quick and dirty list of places to keep in the front of your mind as the COVID-19 crisis evolves:
Monitor Official Guidance Regularly
Stay Informed with State Guidance
While business guidance is changing daily, the best advice I can give wineries right now is: Keep a direct line to your state recommendations for agricultural businesses and cut out the noise that is spread through the news media.
For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) website is providing guidance documents for agricultural businesses. Pennsylvania also offers the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) page, which has resources for businesses. You can also stay on top on current COVID-19 responses through the state’s COVID-19 response page, which has general information that applies to any and all areas affected by COVID-19.
If you need help finding state guidance documentation in your home state, message me at [email protected], and I will help you find the appropriate information.
If an Employee Tests Positive
Most states do have guidance on this topic that gets updated regularly; it just may be difficult to find the information through the maze of webpages.
Therefore, monitor the information from the FDA Q&A website for guidance towards food production businesses, which his providing regular updates on how to handle having employees in the production facility. There is also regularly updated information about how to handle the situation if an employee is infected with COVID-19 and tests positive (under the heading, “Workers Testing Positive”).
Star these pages with regards to state and federal guidance. I suggest checking them at least once a week (more if you can manage), as you can see the advice and recommendations is changing regularly.
I’ve kept tabs on states or regions experiencing extreme shelter-in-place (SIP) orders, which usually come with detailed instructions for essential businesses. Earlier this week, for example, a California law firm sent out guidance to wineries regarding how to maintain business and distributed the state’s Social Distancing Protocol, which was required for businesses to distribute to all working employees. This is useful as an indicator to what may become expected for your business if the outbreak worsens in the business’ region.
I suggest looking at this document as “best practices” guidance for the time being. You can use it to help determine some of your risk points in your own operation and plan how to address those points in the business.
Some of the critical points of interest within the document included:
Stay Home if Sick
- Make sure your employees know not to come to work sick. Have instructions for who to contact if they cannot make it to work and what to do if they become sick while on the job. Think this through now to avoid a stressful future event.
Work from Home if They Can
- If a worker can work from home, the business is encouraged to have them work from home.
- Some wineries are rotating when employees work (e.g., two weeks on, two weeks off) to keep people employed, but minimize the number of employees in closed rooms.
Better Organize Furniture and Equipment
- For offices, desks should be placed at least 6 feet apart.
Increase Disinfection and Sanitation Practices
- Increase routine sanitation for heavily used areas (including disinfecting door knobs), which includes break rooms, bathrooms, and other heavily used spaces. Break rooms should contain tables that are 6 feet apart and the number of employees using it at one time should be minimized.
- Hand washing stations (refer here for a DIY station) or hand sanitizer should be made available to employees at all times. Let employees know where these are available to them.
Alter Pick-Up Practices
- If you still have pick-ups, mark spaces to ensure customers stand 6 feet apart at all time.
- Inhibit the use of reusable bags right now for wine carry-out.
- Have a way for customers to pay for wine that is completely contactless (e.g., order online or by phone, pick-up only without signing).
- All payment equipment (i.e., pens, styluses, screens, etc.) should be disinfected after each use.
Winery Owners Should Plan Now
The second strong piece of advice I can provide is plan for potential changes, including the possibility of physically closing the operations facility, either through recommendations from the government or if an employee (or employees) tests/test positive for the virus.
Knowing how the company will react should a situation arises will take a lot of chaos and guess work out of the process, leaving you more confident in your decision-making.
Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself now to plan for the future:
- What will we do if a vineyard worker becomes ill with COVID-19?
- What will we do if a winery employee becomes ill with COVID-19?
- What will we do if a tasting room employee becomes ill with COVID-19?
- What do we do if one of us becomes ill with COVID-19?
- What is our plan if the state forces us to stop wine pick-ups? physically close our doors? Do we have a plan B to manage sales?
- How do we prepare the wines now to make sure they can sit until we are able to get back into the winery? (For guidance on this, visit this past blog post.)