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Getting ready for a restart: Managing business risks in a COVID-19 world

Some state governments are beginning to relax social distancing measures that were adopted to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Businesses in such states that had been required to scale back their operations or shut down temporarily to comply with these requirements should start getting ready to reopen or resume operations as conditions allow.

Resuming business operations is expected to pose challenges even for seasoned business continuity professionals due to the scope of the disruption and the still-evolving nature of the threat. Here are some tips you may wish to consider to help you get ready.

One size does not fit all: Various authorities have published guidance for businesses. These recommendations are often general in nature, for example, “Develop and implement appropriate policies in accordance with Federal, State, and Local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices regarding…social distancing and protective equipment.”2 Figuring out how to apply such guidance to your specific workplace will require careful consideration and may necessitate changes to current employee work rules or adaptation of the workplace itself. Industry groups and experiences from similar businesses in other areas can be helpful sources of information.

State and local requirements are important: In addition to federal requirements, many state and local governments may have established COVID-related measures. For example, retail stores in Connecticut that remain open must limit store occupancy and implement one-way aisles;3 essential employers in Pennsylvania must comply with a new health department order;4 and the State of Washington requires businesses to adopt special protections for vulnerable employees.5 Failure to comply with these requirements may delay restarts or potentially expose a businesses to sanctions.

COVID-specific safety measures may pose other business risks: Some practices recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may raise technical, operational, and legal concerns that need to be addressed, especially if a business expects to continue these practices after the current threat has abated. For example, the federal government has recommended that businesses adopt temperature checks at business entrances to identify individuals running a fever, which may be indicative of active COVID infection.6 The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) considers such tests to be medical examinations, and that may raise antidiscrimination concerns.7 The time spent waiting in line for such checks may trigger wage and hour considerations.8 The use of telethermographic systems to speed up screening may require confirmatory testing for reliability.9

Restarting production: Businesses that focused closely on adopting COVID-control measures in their workplace should not overlook more traditional business recovery concerns that may also exist from changed operations. For example, a distillery that modified its operation to produce hand sanitizer may have to undergo special cleaning or process reapproval before it can go back to producing distilled spirits.

Reopening after an extended shutdown: In addition to special cleaning of a facility, building maintenance personnel may need to flush plumbing systems to help address any bacterial growth that may have occurred in the stagnant water present in pipes.10 Heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems may require cleaning or rebalancing to eliminate microbial growth and restore good indoor air quality.11

Getting back to business is going to take many companies time to figure out what needs to be done, acquire the necessary resources, and adopt controls in their workplace. Now is the time to start, if you haven’t done so already.

ISO’s Engineering and Safety Service (E&S™) has resources that can help insurers prepare their policyholders for resuming operations. Our E&S Client Handouts can help your policyholders work with you to create an action plan to improve safety and prevent losses in these challenging times. Our Consultation Service can help you adapt general guidance to particular business areas.

Also, be sure to refer to our COVID-19 resource page for property/casualty insurers, which is updated regularly with information on regulatory actions and ISO products in development to help insurers.

  1. Alicia Cohn, “Here’s when all 50 states plan to reopen after coronavirus restrictions,” The Hill, April 20, 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  2. The White House, “Opening Up America Again,” < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  3. State of Connecticut, “Essential Safe Store Rules,” < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  4. Rachel Levine, “Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Directing Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses Permitted to Maintain In-person Operations,” Pennsylvania Department of Health, April 15, 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  5. Jay Inslee, “Proclamation By The Governor Amending Proclamation 20-05,” State of Washington – Office of the Governor, April 13, 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  6. The White House, “Opening Up America Again,” < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  7. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” April 23, 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  8. Fisher Phillips, “Measuring Worker Temperatures Could Lead To Wage And Hour Claims,” April 13, 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  9. Food and Drug Administration, “Enforcement Policy for Telethermographic Systems During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency: Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff, April 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Guidance for Building Water Systems,” updated April 22, 2020, < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.
  11. American Industrial Hygiene Association, “Recovering from COVID-19 Building Closures,” < >, accessed on April 23, 2020.

Thad Nosal

Thad Nosal is director, Engineering and Safety Service at Verisk. You can contact Thad at

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