Josh Medel and Ricky Carr are safety consultants for Sentry Insurance a Mutual Company. Sentry provides insurance, retirement and safety services for dealerships and businesses. Visit www.sentry.com to learn more.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a myriad of challenges for businesses across a range of industries. Many of us have come to realize we’d taken for granted just how much of our day-to-day work involved — or even required — close proximity to other people. Dealerships like yours, for example, are designed to encourage in-person interaction with customers, from test drives to the sales team’s desks.
But as states across the country re-open, it’s crucial not to let complacency or relief impact your dedication to helping your employees and customers stay safe. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, after all. With that in mind, we’ve put together this series of safety strategies based on our knowledge and experience as safety consultants.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a comprehensive list — each of these topics could justify an article of its own. But use this information as a foundation for your safety program, and refer to the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) for the latest information.
Protecting Your Employees
Your employees are the lifeblood of your company, so it’s crucial that you set them up for success — and avoid putting them in uncomfortable or potentially hazardous situations. As we all adjust to this constantly evolving reality, you owe it to your employees — and customers — to eliminate as much ambiguity as possible. Start by creating and providing written guidelines on the following topics:
- Social distancing in the workplace
- Hand-washing and other personal hygiene recommendations
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, including vehicles
- The use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Employee health screenings
- Protocols if an employee or customer displays COVID-19 symptoms
You can also consider reducing the number of employees in your facilities at any given time, including through a gradual re-population or rotation program. But be aware that this increases your risk of workplace discrimination allegations. To help minimize this risk, we encourage you to discuss your chosen plan with an employment attorney or human resources professional first.
Protecting Your Customers
Visitors entering your dealership introduce an additional level of uncertainty. Limiting the number of customers you allow in your dealership at a given time can help them — and your employees — maintain the CDC-recommended six feet of social distance, but there are additional steps you can take:
- Post signage throughout your facilities clearly outlining your expectations and requirements for customers, including social distancing, PPE and health screenings, if applicable.
- Consider setting up partitions or marking floors to encourage social distancing.
- Discourage handshaking.
- Provide hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) at stations throughout your dealership.
- Establish and distribute guidelines for test drives, both for customers and employees. Be sure customers read and review these guidelines before entering one of your vehicles.
Housekeeping and Onsite Cleanliness
While limiting face-to-face interaction and physical contact is an essential step toward reducing the spread of COVID-19, keep in mind that the latest information from the CDC indicates SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — can survive on surfaces for hours or even days. This means it’s crucial that you prioritize cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout your dealership.
- Identify high-risk areas and objects, such as door handles, faucets, phones and keyboards.
- Establish protocols for frequent cleaning and disinfecting of these surfaces and assign responsibility to specific individuals or teams throughout the facility.
- Carefully read labels and directions on all cleaning products before and during use.
Above all, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the information available at cdc.gov. We’ve also put together a range of resources for employers like you, available for free on sentry.com.
The scientific world is constantly learning more about COVID-19, which means guidelines may evolve in the coming weeks and months. Applying these recommendations at your dealership can help you set a positive example in your community and your industry. When we all work together to help protect our employees and our customers, we also indirectly help protect everyone else those individuals interact with outside the workplace.
Saving lives while helping your business thrive — what could be better than that?