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“You’re playing the Prevent Defense when you really need to Blitz!” This risk management advice came from a great leader during a challenging time for the company I worked for at the time.
In football, the Prevent Defense is a defensive formation of last resort, run to prevent the opposing team from scoring with time running out. Using this tactic, most of the defense falls back into passive coverage. A Blitz on the other hand, is an aggressive, potentially high-reward play where most defenders drive forward, towards the opponent.
Today, out of necessity, the hospitality industry is playing the Prevent Defense. Let’s talk about pivoting to the Blitz; because, at some point, in the very near future, hotels and resorts will re-open. In order to successfully manage this transition, right now is the time to plan, prepare, and get out in front of that day. Here’s what to expect:
Actions to Protect Employees
Creating a healthy, safe environment for hotel staff in the midst of an epidemic is priority #1. Today, hotel operators are working to source suppliers of personal protective equipment [PPE]. Hotels will struggle to re-open or ramp-up operations without adequate supplies of vinyl or nitrile gloves, eye and face protection, N95, surgical or cloth face coverings and hand sanitizer, to name a few.
Ongoing supply chain interruptions and inventory shortages continue to challenge governments and business, worldwide. When the economy re-opens, we can expect another huge run on suppliers for all of this critical equipment. Now, more than ever, hoteliers need to further strengthen their relationships with and continue to engage their critical vendors and suppliers to prepare for that day.
A key habit of successful organizations is the involvement of employees in the planning of the work that affects them. Hotel leaders need to lean heavily into this concept for two reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. But, in order to reassure concerned, apprehensive employees that it’s safe for them to return to work, we need to first understand their fears, challenges & suggestion—and then act on those right away.
Additionally, employee involvement in workplace planning for safety from infectious disease, could soon be required by state law. In recent years, California’s Department of Industrial Relations [DIR] and Cal/OSHA have created new industry safety orders that are more employee-centric. A recent example of this is California’s new Musculoskeletal Injury Standard (or “MIPP”) for hotel housekeepers.
California’s hotel industry needs to be planning today to comply with new regulations that will likely be issued as they relate to infectious disease prevention.
Sanitation, Hygiene & Hotel Operations
Nationwide, some local, county & state governments have begun to issue specific guidance to hotels for preventing the spread of COVID-19. As we move closer to reopening the economy, the hotel industry should expect to see a number of new, specific disease prevention advice and required protocols including the following:
Plan to implement updated training requirements for hotel housekeepers on how to safely and correctly use disinfectants approved by public health authorities. Additional guidelines are expected for the laundering of hotel linens.
Prepare for public health authorities to mandate specific PPE, hygiene, sanitation, disease prevention procedures, common signs and symptoms on COVID-19 infection, out-of-state travelers and other requirements. At the very least, management should begin to plan on developing a written COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan similar to what’s required under the state’s Blood Borne Pathogens Standard.
It’s likely that officials may require specific signage in facilities that speak to hand washing, social distancing, and more.
Food/Beverage Service, Public Spaces & Business Density
Businesses could see new regulations dictating human density in businesses. For example, in some areas, restaurants have been allowed to continue operating only if they reduce occupancy by 50%. At the very least, hotels can expect to be given updated protocols for the cleaning of public areas such as front desks, restrooms, elevators, lobbies and meeting rooms.
It’s probable that public health authorities may require new specific recordkeeping requirements including employee attendance, maintenance of guest records, employee work assignments, documentation of key control procedures, including electronic lock records and security camera footage. This is important if someone in the hotel has been confirmed COVID-19 positive.
The bottom line is to be familiar with the public health agencies in your community by frequently checking their websites, engaging with officials and utilizing their guidance.
It’s helpful to establish professional relationships with local public health officials. It’s far easier and more beneficial for your organization if you have the name and number of someone you can personally call for assistance—rather than wasting valuable time up the chain of command seeking help.
Maintenance, Engineering and Building Systems
Properties that have closed, or have been operating with low occupancy, may have shut down electricity, water, plumbing and HVAC service [as well as other systems] to parts of the facility. Engineers and maintenance personnel are the hotel experts on these systems. However, these systems may have never been shut down for a period of time.
It’s hard to know exactly how building systems will behave or interoperate after being shut-down for an extended period of time. This is why maintenance and engineering personnel should be planning for this by actively engaging the manufacturers, suppliers and servicer providers for all of the building equipment and systems, today. Setting time aside to run and test all hotel building systems before re-opening to the public will help provide a smoother transition.
Reporting on the seasonality of COVID-19 infections tells us that warm weather is good and winter months could bring a resurgence of the virus. Some in the government and media have been discussing a re-opening of the economy in May or June but also warning of another quarantine or lockdown in November or December should the infection rate begin to rise again.
Every business should have a detailed contingency plan or Continuity of Operations Plan, but many do not. Researching successful organizations emergency & contingency plans will give you insight on how you need to plan and what you need to plan for.
The entire service industry can get a glimpse of what may be coming by taking cues from major grocery chains; acrylic sneeze guards at the cashier stands; “one way” aisles; social distancing decals on the floor at checkout stands; lowering store occupancy and density; employees sanitizing surfaces over and over.
In order to win the day, engagement will be the key. Engage employees. Engage public health officials. Engage insurers. Engage critical suppliers, vendors, manufacturers and service providers. Do all of these things today. Because it’s the fourth quarter, the clock is running and we’re down by a score—forget the prevent defense and embrace the blitz.
Matthew Karp, CLSD, CFI-I, is the Senior Loss Control Manager for Petra Risk Solutions, which provides a full-range of risk management and insurance services for hospitality owners and operators. Their website is www.petrarisksolutions.com. Matt can be reached at 800.466.8951 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.