This most challenging last year has seen millions of businesses closing their doors, pausing trading, and putting teams of workers on furlough to comply with governmental guidelines.
Now that lockdown restrictions have gradually begun to lift, Scottish businesses need to consider:
- When they can reopen (expected to be from around 26th April).
- What safety procedures they need to implement.
- Whether general housekeeping and maintenance are required in advance.
For non-essential retailers, sports sector businesses and commercial spaces that have either been shut completely or where teams have been working from home, it may be that business premises have been all but untouched for most of the last 12 months.
It is, therefore, crucial to plan now, while a few weeks remain, to ensure that your business is primed, ready and raring to go when you can at last welcome your customers and visitors back!
Let’s run through a checklist of the significant considerations to ensure you are in the best position to get started.
General Maintenance for Business Reopening
If your premises have been closed, you will likely have turned off heating systems, locked down all of your valuable equipment, and won’t have used the water in some time.
First up, let’s think about general cleaning and what you’ll need to do to ensure your building is back in good order:
- Dusting and Airing
Before any other works begin, it’s wise to open all the doors and windows and allow some fresh air to filter through. Dust, damp and mould can all accumulate, and a thorough deep clean is essential.
- External Inspections
Ensure your security cameras or alarm systems are all working well, and schedule a service or any repairs necessary before trading resumes.
The winter has been long, cold and very wet, so it’s important to clear gutters, ensure the drainage system is working well, and clear away any fly-tipped waste, debris, or accumulated leaves.
- Pest Infestations
A widespread issue is that properties uninhabited for several months are very prone to infestations of mice, insects, rats or bats. If you find any evidence of pests taking up residence in your premises, you will need to schedule a pest control service well in advance of your reopening date.
You may have invested in vacant property security to protect your empty premises. You’ll need to arrange the removal of any concrete barrier blocks, check that your alarm and CCTV system is working and recap on safety procedures – you or your staff may have forgotten after 1 years!
Turn on electrics, heating systems, and make sure everything is working well. That might include light bulbs, plugs, switches, boilers and radiators, for example. If any PAT testing certificates or electrical safety tests have expired, these will need to be scheduled.
Where heating systems have been off for several months, it’s wise to turn these back on gradually to avoid shocking the system and causing damage to the pipework.
You should also run water through to ensure that no stagnant water remains sitting in pipes or outlets. The system will need to be flushed by running taps for at least five minutes and flushing through boilers, showers, dishwashers and toilers.
Should the property have been completely unused, it is essential to have this tested for legionella before reopening.
Deep Cleaning After Lockdown
Once the general maintenance tasks have been carried out and any repairs or servicing scheduled, the next step is to ensure the building has a thorough deep clean.
Suppose any staff have been on-site that have become ill with COVID-19, or you expect some of your visitors to fall into a vulnerable category. In that case, it may be worth considering a professional anti-viral fogging treatment to be sure the building is safe for use.
A deep clean is recommended if the property has been used within the last 72 hours, and empty premises may also benefit since there could be a significant build-up of dust, bugs, spider webs, damp and mould spores.
Planning for a Safe Return to Work
The next crucial stage is to consider how the premises are used and how staff and clients operate to determine whether changes are required to the layout, security checks or safety protocols.
- Social distancing remains in effect. If you have a public-access business, you may need to install floor signs reminding customers of the appropriate distance. One-way directional signs around retail spaces, delineated areas for queuing and barriers to ensure foot traffic does not build-up may be required.
- The premises may require safety checks – that could include posting security staff at entranceways, carrying out hand-held thermometer checks, or installing a body temperature detection camera, for example.
- Workforce protection is crucial. Depending on the nature of the company, that might include face coverings, PPE, hand sanitiser stations, changes to working positions or rotas, face screens and shields between tables or checkouts.
The best way to work through these requirements and how they apply to your premises is to conduct a thorough risk assessment to establish where changes to working practises are required.
By preparing your premises, planning, and risk assessing in advance of your reopening date, you’ll be in a great position to open your doors with confidence.