Skip to main content

Work Safe 3.0: Principles to Operate Businesses in Houston Safely

Published Nov 10, 2020 by Clint Pasche

Downtown skyline for slider

As businesses operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we do so safely, sustainability and successfully. The Greater Houston Partnership created these principles to aid companies as they plan to restart or expand in-person business functions while protecting the health of their employees and customers.

This list of Work Safe principles has been modified from two earlier versions to reflect evolving federal and state guidance, and this list either meets, exceeds or expands on that guidance.

1. Create a safe work environment for all on-site employees.

  • Face masks or coverings should be worn at all times, especially when in a shared space with other employees such as a conference or break room. Masks should be worn properly, which means snuggly-fitting and covering both the nose and mouth.
  • Ensure proper social distancing by creating physical separation. Health officials advise that all individuals should remain at least six feet apart to avoid possible transmission. This is especially true in environments where mask-wearing is not possible. Employers should establish protocols that allow all on-site employees to maintain a distance of at least six feet while working.
  • Encourage proper hygiene. Employers should provide sufficient hand sanitizing stations, guidelines for proper hand washing and soap at all hand-washing stations to ensure proper hygiene in the workplace.
  • Close communal spaces. Where possible, employers should discontinue use of any communal spaces such as lunchrooms, breakrooms, meeting rooms and other gathering spaces to avoid unnecessary person-to-person exposure unless a physical distance of at least six feet between individuals can be maintained. 
  • Decrease physical contact. Establish measures to limit interaction between individual employees  as well as employees and customers. Utilize contactless solutions. 
  • Expand cleaning operations. Companies where workers must remain onsite should increase cleaning protocols of all high-touch and high-traffic areas throughout the day.

2. Require workers with COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms to stay home. To minimize exposure to other personnel, all workers who are experiencing even mild symptoms (principally fever, dry cough, sneezing) should avoid entering the workplace, report the situation to their supervisor, and remain home.

  • Companies should consider adjusting paid sick leave (PTO) policies. Employers should remove disincentives for people self-reporting illnesses. It is to a company’s advantage for sick employees to stay home.

3. Allow employees to work from home as necessary. While many companies have returned some portion of their employees to the office, some employees, due to a variety of risk factors, may need to continue to work from home. Companies should make arrangements for these employees to continue to work remotely while facilitating connections with their on-site counterparts. 

4. Eliminate crowding in the workplace. Limit the number of customers or individuals allowed in the business or workplace at one time to allow for social distancing. If possible, utilize markings to ensure safe spacing at all times.  

  • Create alternate teams. Employers with on-site staff should consider creating alternating teams (i.e. morning/afternoon shifts, day/evening, every other day) so that operations may continue if one team becomes exposed and is required to quarantine.

5. Employ virtual meeting technology. To avoid unnecessary exposure, employers should implement online video conferencing and other virtual meeting and messaging tools to conduct meetings. 

6. Apply industry best practices to your reopening and expanding operations. National, state and local trade associations, along with leading companies in most business sectors, have developed robust sector-specific best practices to successfully and safely operate in this environment and have shared these resources online.

7. Encourage employees to observe safe travel guidance. Employers are strongly encouraged to follow the direction of public health officials to guide travel decisions outside of the Houston region. Employees should protect themselves and others during the duration of the trip, including following CDC travel guidelines. Travelers from high-risk areas should consult with their medical provider regarding self-quarantining and self-monitoring measures. (Note: A recent U.S. Defense Department study showed a low risk of contracting COVID-19 on board a plane when masked.) 

8. Develop health checks. Create a plan to train employees in responsible health checks using proper techniques and protocols. Utilize temperature checks to monitor the health of employees and send home employees who display symptoms. Employees who have a fever or display symptoms of COVID-19 or flu-like illness should not be allowed to work. 

9. Manage confirmed or suspected work-related cases. Implement a process to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace in the event an employee tests positive or is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Employers must understand the legal considerations related to managing cases in the workplace, including issues around employee privacy. For more information on what can be done to manage confirmed or suspected cases in the workplace, click here.

10. Establish anonymous reporting. To maintain a safe work environment for on-site employees and customers, companies should create an anonymous complaint channel for employees and customers to report unsafe practices or violations of protocol during this COVID-19 period.
 

Learn more about the Houston Work Safe Program

Updated on November 10, 2020. See previous iteration

Related News

Digital Technology

Texas Led Nation in Economic Development Wins in 2020, According to Site Selection

3/1/21
Texas continues to dominate the nation when it comes to total economic development project wins, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lone Star State took the top spot for the ninth year in a row on Site Selection Magazine’s list of best performing states for economic development by total number of projects. That’s earned Texas the publication’s Governor’s Cup award once again.  Texas logged 781 projects in 2020, down from 859 qualifying projects the year before but still more than any other state as the U.S. grappled with the effects of the pandemic.  Ohio took the top spot on Site Selection’s list of most projects per capita.  According to Site Selection: “Both Ohio and Texas have diverse economies, as do the other high-ranking states, so that was a factor in their capital investment success. All states benefited from a strong national economy heading into 2020 — until COVID-19 slammed the brakes on their momentum. Economic development agendas turned to business recovery and assistance, and suddenly governors were seen leading daily pandemic updates and determining to what extent they would remain open for business.”  Texas Governor Greg Abbott told the magazine that all metrics are now moving in the right direction in terms of the state’s economic recovery. The Governor pointed to the drop in new cases and hospitalizations as well as other positive indicators. “We undertook a number of measures that were focused on trying to maximize businesses being allowed to remain open and operate safely and to minimize any type of shutdown,” Abbott told Site Selection, “and find the right blend of that and maximum public safety. We focused on keeping businesses open as much as possible and providing them the guidance and the tools, meaning we were able to surge testing supplies through chambers of commerce to help businesses be able to test employees, for example.”  Abbott said businesses use challenging periods like this one as an opportunity to chart their paths forward. “That’s something we saw from the phone calls we got during the course of the pandemic this past year — businesses wanting to either come to Texas or grow in Texas and using this time as an opportunity to do those expansions. What they see in Texas is extremely promising, and I believe our economy will be booming the latter part of this year and next year.” Houston specifically had a strong year in economic development, as well. In November, Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced plans to move its headquarters from California to North Harris County, giving the region yet another Fortune 500 company. A month later, Axiom Space said it would build the world's first commercial space station at the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport. That project is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to the area. Greentown Labs, Amazon and Google Inc. all announced projects earlier in the year. View other significant economic development projects in this region here.    Learn more about Site Selection's Governor's Cup lists and the publication's methodology and discover why companies across the country and around the world are considering Houston. 
Read More
COVID-19

Economic Update: Houston Works to Recover from Winter Storm, Makes Progress on COVID-19 

2/25/21
This month’s winter storm, which wreaked havoc across Texas and left millions without power and water for days, dealt a considerable blow to the Houston region already working to recover from the coronavirus-induced recession. But there is reason for optimism as the COVID-19 picture begins to improve here and elsewhere around the country.   In his monthly economic update this week, Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski addressed the winter storm and COVID-19, as well as their respective effects on the regional economy.   “It’s been a very rough year for us, rough both economically and public health wise,” Jankowski said, adding that the winter storm dealt residents - and their psyche - yet another blow.  The storm completely shut down Houston for most of the week of February 15, grinding business to a halt across the region. Temperatures reached a new record low of just 16 degrees and the weather forced shutdowns at power generation plants across the state, leading to widespread blackouts. Texas lawmakers are holding hearings this week in Austin to determine why plant infrastructure wasn’t more resilient against the severe weather and what can be done to ensure such a situation doesn’t occur again.  Jankowski said it’s difficult to quantify the economic impact the storm had on Houston since most economic data doesn’t analyze changes week-to-week. But he said it's clear that hourly workers, as many as 1.8 million individuals in the Houston region, were hit hardest because they simply couldn’t work and collect a paycheck. “This fell heaviest on those who could least afford it,” he said.  Jankowski said the good news is that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all decreasing in this region and across the country. The ramp up in the vaccination rollout could allow the U.S. to reach herd immunity by late spring or summer, he said. “When we reach that tipping point, we will begin to see the economy really reopen. People will begin to travel more, eat out more frequently, go to baseball games and movie theaters…It also means companies will act on business decisions that have been put on hold.”  But we aren’t out of the woods yet, Jankowski cautioned. He said initial weekly jobless claims are still three times higher than normal, and while some economists are projecting very robust U.S. job growth this year, he’s more pragmatic. “We will see healthy job growth, but not 600,000 jobs a month as some are forecasting.”  The recovery from the COVID-19 recession should be quicker than the Great Recession of 2008 because this one was spawned by a government mandate that restricted activity, Jankowski said. But, he added, what many aren’t factoring into the recovery are the structural changes that have accelerated preexisting trends. “Retail will never be the same again. Movie studios have taken to releasing their films directly to streaming services and bypassing theaters. We will be in a more hybrid work situation and that’s going to have a dramatic effect on the future of business.”  Nearly 60% of the 350,200 jobs lost in the Houston region at the height of the pandemic last year have been recouped, though higher wage jobs are rebounding quicker than lower paying positions.  To see Jankowski's full presentation, members can log into the Membership Portal at the top right of this screen. Get more research and analysis from the Partnership team in the Data section of the site.   
Read More

Related Events

Executive Partners