Over a dozen states across the nation are planning to reopen select nonessential businesses late this week into early next week, and with a potential second wave on the table, a national task force has been established.

The task force is responsible for ensuring the safety of employees returning to work after the pandemic as well as guiding employers through the process of safely resuming operations.

Avetta, a supply chain risk management firm in Orem, is among 54 Fortune 500 companies to join the first national safety task force set to help employers develop plans that encourage employee safety after the end of the pandemic.

The National Safety Council task force was created to support the Safe Actions for Employee Returns initiative. The initiative is a developed guide for employers to use throughout the process of resuming traditional operations.

“With SAFER, we are bringing the best minds together to ensure Americans have the safest transition back to work possible,” National Safety Council president and CEO Lorraine Martin said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have the partnership of Avetta to help us on our mission to make workplaces safer.”

Now that the task force has been established, the first step is the collection of information from across the world.

Avetta’s vice president of industry relations Danny Shields said organizations are trying to prepare for their employees to return to work in real time, and a significant number of these companies have implemented successful politics from which everyone can learn.

The task force is working to gather information from companies who have already put in place certain procedures to facilitate returning to work before creating data-driven, research-based solutions to concerns that arise during the process of reopening local economies.

Initially, Shields said, the task force is going to take a look at the bigger picture to manage the process nationally.

“We’ve got states that really have their own agendas on how they’re planning to reopen businesses and what those timelines look like,” he said. “What the task force is planning on doing is saying, ‘OK. If you’re going to have a protocol that you follow to put people safely back to work, here are the things you should probably consider doing.’”

Recommendations for small and mid-sized companies across several industries will be developed over time by the task force using data to draft guidance and create tools for businesses and their employees.

Additionally, the task force is looking to create resources and guidance documents to help give businesses an already-established outline to use when developing their own processes, much like a playbook, Shields said.

The task force is specifically looking to draft a general set of steps that can support safely returning employees to work that works across several industries.

“That’s a challenge, but we’ve really got the best minds in the health and safety world to support this task force,” he said.

Each industry will have aspects of their business that need to be assessed on an individual basis.

For example, retail stores must evaluate how many employees they need to maintain daily operations, such as stocking and working front of house, while technology-based companies like Avetta can afford to bring employees back later than others as telecommuting is an option that shows minimal effects to operations.

Overall, Shields said businesses should begin to assess who needs to be back to work more quickly than others and ask why.

“You don’t want to open up and bring everyone back to the office space or to your business all at once,” he said. “You would likely want to stagger them back to maintain social distancing and use some administrative controls to slowly start to reopen your business.”

Once a list of essential employees has been drafted, it is time to begin the screening process to ensure employees are not coming to work with symptoms of the coronavirus or putting themselves and others at risk.