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'The basic principles of safety and health that we have been following since the pandemic began will help us move forward.'

The past two months have been a whirlwind for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.

We have been busy learning and educating the business community about policies, guidelines, and resources that have been developed to help save small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been advocating for equality, clarity, and protection for all who are impacted by the disease. Though it has been exhausting, we have come to appreciate all sides of the pandemic.

We especially don't envy any official, elected or otherwise, who shoulders the responsibility to decide who, what and where to shut down, and when, why, and how to reopen. So many "experts" and "scientists" interpret the same "facts" in so many ways that it's dizzying.

Recently, we participated in a call with state officials who were answering questions about proposed guidelines for an industry sector. Callers were asking precise questions for their specific circumstances that were not helpful for the rest of the audience. And because the questions were so specific, state officials did not have all the answers. We left the call feeling aggravated and frustrated and were not sure why or with whom to be upset.

Everyone wants clarity to maintain safety and avoid hurting others. But state guidelines are not complete and never will be. There are too many circumstances for officials to dictate every operational procedure and answer each what-if question for all business, nonprofit, individual and family activities.

Thankfully, however, the basic principles of safety and health that we have been following since the pandemic began will help us move forward when what to do is not clear:

• Maintain proper social distancing

• Be vigilant about proper hygiene

• Use personal protective equipment often and properly

There are going to be times when adhering to these principles 100% of the time is not feasible and that seems to make many of us anxious. This is when we will have to evaluate all options, including the possibility of not engaging in or significantly modifying the activity.

Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) addressed business's concern when guidance is not clear. OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said, "...if you've only received general guidance and general direction, the likelihood that we will actually find you in violation and issue a citation is proportionately lower. ... (Complainants) see practices that they don't feel like meet their expectations but that seem to us to be a reasonable response. ... I will tell you none of those examples are the people who are getting citations. Citations will be to employers that were clearly on the closure list or that have really not taken any reasonable available measures to try to protect their employees in the context of COVID-19."

This does not mean we can ignore requirements when they are inconvenient or interfere with the way we used to do things. We must consider all possible avenues of safety and protection. Many local, state, and federal resources are available to give us ideas or recommendations. For Oregon businesses, contact OSHA's free and confidential consulting department for advice about how to handle a situation.

This COVID-19 pandemic is testing our mettle and patience, yet the Sherwood Chamber is encouraged by all the good happening in our community. We look forward to continuing our support of our small businesses and residents. Stay healthy and safe!

Corey Kearsley is executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.


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