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safe start washington blog post

A Safe Start: What Washington Business Owners Need to Know

On May 1st, Governor Jay Inslee rolled out Washington’s 4-part “Safe Start” plan. This plan will allow businesses to gradually reopen while keeping the health and safety of employees and patrons at the forefront. As of May 4th, the majority of WA counties are in Phase 1 of the four-step reopening process.  What does this mean for all of us who are eager to reopen or patronize local businesses? Here’s what you need to know now.

What types of businesses will be able to reopen under phase 1?

Phase 1 builds upon re-opening of some construction activity and outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, playing golf and some park access. Below, you will find a list of all business sectors approved for phase 1 reopening:

  • Car washes – issued May 7
  • Vehicle Licensing Branches-issued May 8
  • Construction – issued April 24
  • Curbside retail and e-commerce – issued May 8
  • Essential workforce – issued May 7
  • Landscaping – issued May 8
  • Pet walking industry – issued May 8
  • Spiritual drive-in services – issued May 6
  • Vehicle sales – issued May 6

If your business falls under one or more of the above approved Phase 1 activities, you can find industry-specific safety requirements for reopening at the COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers website.

What baseline safety requirements need to be met before a business is authorized to reopen?

It is important to understand that in all phases of the “Safe Start” plan, business activities are not authorized to open until a business is able to meet all safety criteria. Governor Inslee emphasizes, “Protecting Washingtonians through a safe reopening and acting as good stewards of our local communities is our priority.” Requirements include the continuation of social-distancing efforts such as maintaining a six-foot physical distance from fellow employees and patrons and providing services while limiting close interaction with patrons (i.e. curbside service). An exhaustive list of health and safety requirements can be found at Safe Start Washington.

Employers should develop their own unique plans tailored to their services. They should also be sure to communicate safety plans to the workforce and the public.

What are some additional considerations businesses should have for employees and patrons at high risk from Covid-19?

According to the CDC, high-risk/vulnerable communities are persons age 65 or older and persons of all ages who have underlying medical conditions. In order to protect persons who may be at high-risk from COVID-19, employers should enact policies designed to support these communities based on state and federal guidelines. Such as Washington State Proclamation 20-46, “Opening up America Again” and Americans with Disabilities Act/Non-discrimination laws.

Below are some actions employers should take based on guidelines:

  1. Utilize all available options for alternative work assignments.
  2. Allow telework/remote options whenever possible and feasible for business operations.
  3. Work together with employees to think of creative solutions that will meet the needs of both.

For more information on how to support all workers during this time, visit the Safe Start Washington plan.

What can patrons do to ensure that local businesses can remain open?

Washington’s Safe Start plan provides guidance to individuals who would like to support businesses, but still protect themselves and others. These guidelines include:

  • Engage in physical distancing, staying at least six feet away from other people
  • Wear cloth face coverings in public places when not eating or drinking
  • Stay home if sick
  • Avoid others who are sick
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects frequently

As always, you can continue to support local businesses while staying home. You can do this by making purchases online or by buying gift cards to use once normal operations resume. Your adherence to safety guidelines will ensure that your favorite businesses can stay open!

If I have more questions, where can I find additional information?

General questions from employers about the Safe Start plan can be directed to the state’s Business Response Center. Additional workplace safety guidance is available on Wa.gov Business & Workers page.  Visit the Wa.gov What’s Open page for more information about which personal, recreational and spiritual activities are allowed.

Above all, stay safe!

About the author

Elizabeth Tuck

Elizabeth Tuck is an MSW student at the University of Washington. Her passion for equity in public school systems inspired her to pursue a concentration in Community Centered Integrative Practice, wherein she works to leverage community assets to build a better public school experience for all children.

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