Liability Insurance Contributing Columnist


Ready, Set…..Go?….Back to the Office

Jen Pino-Gallagher
Director of Food & Agribusiness Practice
M3 Insurance

July 10, 2020


As a kid growing up on an Iowa dairy farm, one of the strangest times I can remember was when the power went out just before milking. Our Rural Electric Cooperative rarely failed us, but Upper Midwest summer storms can be violent. And a tree, downed in just the right spot, could knock down power lines and the power to our farm for hours at a time.

When the power did come back on, we’d trudge to the barn to flip the switch. The hum of the milking equipment was a welcomed, familiar noise that meant our day had returned to normal.

For some dairy processors, June Dairy Month might have felt a bit like the lights had been suddenly switched back on. This may have been the first time in several months that dairy plant administrative and office personnel left their home offices to return to their worksite as shelter-in-place orders were relaxed.

Safely returning your office-based personnel back to their office environment won’t be as simple as unlocking the front door and flipping on the lights. Instead, you may want to consider reopening in phases.

Below are some basic steps that leadership at dairy processors can consider as they bring their remote based team back into the office.
When considering a return to work action plan, the first step to reduce risks within the office environment is to perform a risk assessment to identify where specific hazards within the office space may exist.

Identifying the hazards. When it comes to COVID-19, businesses need to think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person entered their facilities. When identifying hazards, it’s a good idea to perform a walkthrough of the premises and consider high-risk areas (e.g., breakrooms and other areas where people may congregate).

Implementing additional safety procedures. Once you’ve identified potential exposures within the office space, determine what additional safeguards are needed. Creating appropriate social distancing at workstations, staggering shifts, cleaning/disinfecting procedures and personal protective equipment should be considered and implemented.

Assessing risks. Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyze them to determine their potential consequences, employee safety, financial, compliance, reputational harm, and how likely this particular risk is to occur.

Controlling risks. With a sense of what the threats to your business are, you can then consider ways to address them, including physically modifying your workspace and creating an office-space disinfecting strategy.

Monitoring the results. Risk management is an evolving, continuous process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness and reassess.

The return to work action plan should also include identification and creation of a Pandemic Response Team, establishing employee screening exposure and confirmed illness protocol and creating employee safety training materials.

When your office is ready to reopen, consider doing so in a manner that balances your plant’s business needs and the health and safety of employees. As such, consider reopening in phases, and be sure to provide ample employee communications throughout the entire process.

Depending on your business and location, this phased-in approach to reopening will vary. You will need to keep state and local guidance related to social distancing in mind when reopening your business.
For example, if your local guidance prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, it may not be advised or permitted for all employees to return to work.

Some have said that returning a remote workforce back to the office is less like flipping a switch than it is like turning a dial. And, as you build and execute your plan, essentially turning the dial, consider seeking input from trusted advisors, including accountants, bankers and your insurance broker’s risk management team. We’re in this together


Jen Pino-Gallagher is director of the food and agribusiness practice at M3 Insurance. M3 Insurance offers insight, advice and strategies to help clients manage risk, purchase insurance and provide employee benefits. The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Reporter. You can contact the columnist by calling (800) 272-2443, or by visiting


For more information, call (800) 272-2443 or visit


Jen Pino-Gallagher

Jen Pino-Gallagher is a Director of Food & Agribusiness Practice at M3 Insurance. M3 Insurance offers insight, advice and strategies to help clients manage risk, purchase insurance and provide employee benefits.
For more information, call (800) 272-2443 , visit

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