Clean Up After an Employee Becomes Impacted by COVID-19

The paint protection and window film industries have tried to combat the spread of COVID-19 by following guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as local and state government officials. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests several ways to sanitize the workplace after discovering employees with the virus.

According to the CDC’s published information, transmission of the virus from surfaces to humans hasn’t been documented, but some experts suggest that those cases could be too difficult to track. When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing potentially infected areas, CDC officials say to include not only individual workspaces, but also any areas that infected employees might have visited while on the premises. It is also important to note that neither cleaning nor disinfecting alone is considered sufficient; it takes both to effectively eliminate the virus. Cleaning does nothing to kill germs, guidelines point out, but does help to decrease their number. Conversely, disinfecting doesn’t remove germs, but kills those remaining on surfaces.

Should one of your employees test positive, the first steps toward eradicating the virus from workspaces includes blocking off potentially infected areas, while opening up any available airflow through windows. Then CDC guidelines say you should wait—up to 24 hours if possible—before cleaning and disinfecting. After evaluating where infected persons potentially worked and visited, surfaces should be cleaned with detergent, or soap and water, prior to disinfecting.

Proper disinfectants should be used, including either those made of Environmental Protection Agency-registered formulas, diluted household bleach, or solutions including at least 70% alcohol.

Note: If you’re using diluted bleach, CDC warns that it must be approved for the surface to be treated and it’s imperative that you follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and ventilation. It’s also important to ensure the product isn’t expired and to never mix materials including bleach with substances containing ammonia or other cleaners.

Bleach solutions for disinfecting can be made using five tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or four teaspoons per quart.

Note: When it comes to uniforms and other launderable items, CDC guidelines say don’t shake. Wash in accordance with instructions, but using the warmest setting allowable before thoroughly drying. It is acceptable to wash the clothing of infected persons with those of persons who aren’t infected, guidelines state. Lastly, don’t forget about storage containers used for clothing. Those should also be cleaned and disinfected.

For companies relying on their own cleaning staffs and/or other employees to conduct cleaning and disinfecting, officials warn that it’s inadvisable for employers to rely on commonsense measures or even basic guidelines. As with any matter pertaining to safety, training is imperative, including how to use the appropriate protective equipment, along with cleaners and disinfectants.

Those performing cleaning should wear disposable gloves and gowns throughout the process, including when they empty and handle trash receptacles. Also, CDC advises checking to ensure the gloves are compatible and approved for the types of cleaners and disinfectants used. Gloves should be taken off immediately after cleaning a room or area occupied by infected persons but removed carefully to avoid cross contamination. And while you might be tempted to think that it isn’t necessary to wash hands after wearing and removing protective gloves, CDC officials say do so immediately, while using the prescribed 20-second cycle.

Lastly, while workers might become accustomed to leaning on hand sanitizer amid day-to-day operations, in the event that hands are dirty, it’s important not to rely on those alcohol-based products alone, CDC warns. Just like surfaces, always start with a good cleaning via soap and water.

Note: It is important to know that the CDC’s recommendations may also be used for window film installers working on approved projects.

Darrell Smith, International Window Film Association (IWFA) executive director, gave the following safety suggestions for industry businesses: print out copies of the CDC’s recommendations and give it to staff to read and take home to share with their family members, and post the CDC’s recommendations in key areas in your shop and office locations, which could even be posted on your company website.

Eastman Donates Material to Purdue for Protective Lenses, Face Shields

Eastman recently announced it donated 600 square feet of material to Purdue University in response to COVID-19 needs. According to Eastman, more than 40 volunteer faculty and staff members are using the school’s laser cutting system to produce up to 3,000 lenses and 4,000 face shields. The protective equipment will be distributed to hospitals across Indiana.

“I’m proud of the speed at which the Eastman team was able to get material to the teams at Purdue,” said Brendan Boyd, specialty plastics and fibers technology vice president. “The need for more protective equipment is urgent. We value these innovative partnerships that can meet a significant community need quickly and effectively.”

The company notes, personal protective equipment (PPE) plays an essential role in protecting medical personnel and others on the front lines battling the epidemic. Meanwhile, safety glasses and face shields protect people from droplets produced by coughing and sneezing and can help prevent workers from touching their faces.

Purdue’s Bechtel Innovation Design Center is using a pilot-scale manufacturing facility to make protective glasses and face shields. “Under guidance from medical professionals, we have redesigned and manufactured complex fittings for ventilators and are actively producing laser cut, waterjet cut, and 3D-printed parts for face shields and safety glasses,” said David McMillan, assistant director of the center.

Eastman has donated material to organizations in Tennessee, Virginia and Brazil for the production of face shields. In Europe, the company has donated resins to customers that are making hand sanitizer instead of cosmetics.

Eastman Donates 400 lbs. of Plastic to Help PHCC 3-D Print Protective Gear

This week, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) received a donation of 450 pounds of double-laminated seven-millimeter film from Eastman in Martinsville, Va.

PHCC recently launched an initiative to produce hundreds of face shields for health care providers in its Fab Lab at the Dalton IDEA Center. The college had several rolls of appropriate plastic in stock to create the base of the shield, but did not have enough clear plastic on hand to create the face coverings. The college reached out to Eastman to see if it had the necessary plastic to create a face shield. Eastman did not have any plastic thick enough for a face shield, and according to the company, it quickly developed a creative solution. Within 72 hours, Eastman’s team figured out how to use the materials they had on hand and began producing a product that would fit the need.

Eastman then presented the college with 1,000 feet of the specially designed plastic. From this one donation, the college estimates it will be able to make over 400 face shields.

“We’re extremely proud to partner with Patrick Henry Community College for this important cause,” said Steve DuVal, Eastman Martinsville operation site director.

College technicians say it will only take a few seconds for its laser cutting machine to turn a plastic sheet into a face shield. The base of the face shield – which the college is producing using 3-D printers – takes about four hours to print.

“We believe this whole event showcases how strong the Martinsville community is – how we can come together to support one another in a time of need,” says PHCC workforce and community development vice president, Rhonda Hodges.

Industry Pros Share Insight on COVID-19 Relief Options

The Federal Government sent a message to America’s corporations and small businesses by enacting a $2 trillion stimulus package. As window film companies and their employees struggle with the effects of the coronavirus, lawmakers assured that help is on the way. But figuring out what that help consists of isn’t easy.

“I have tried to follow all the news regarding the stimulus package and all it has to offer. I’ve found much of it to be overlapping and hard to figure out,” said Steve Pesce, New York Window Film Co. president. “At first even my payroll company wasn’t sure of the exact way to classify employees or how payroll taxes would be dealt with. I believe all were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the small business relief package that Congress has signed.”

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act was signed into law, appropriating $377 billion for companies with 500 employees or less. The program is designed to provide immediate relief through grants, while allowing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to administer loans of up to $10 million per small business—portions of which are labeled as forgivable.

According to the terms in the CARES Act, Americans will receive a one-time direct deposit of up to $1,200, and married couples will get $2,400, plus an additional $500 per child. The payments will be available for incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. Some of that fine print is yet to be provided, as government officials establish specific guidelines for emergency lending. At the discretion of SBA officials, those requirements could be loosened on a case-by-case basis.

“Speed is the operative word,” says SBA administrator Jovita Carranza. “Applications for the emergency capital can begin, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans. We remain committed to supporting our nation’s more than 30 million small businesses and their employees, so that they can continue to be the fuel for our nation’s economic engine.”

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The PPP is a part of the CARES Act, which has up to $349 billion designated for forgivable loans to small businesses, so that they can pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. All loan terms will be the same for everyone, according to the SBA.

“Every small business should do this,” said Ty Sullivan, SPF Window Tinting vice president.

The PPP is designed to carry small businesses through uncertain and unprecedented times due to COVID-19. The loan amounts under PPP will be forgiven as long as the following terms are met, according to the SBA:

  • The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the eight week period after the loan is made; and
  • Employee and compensation levels are maintained.

It is important to note that payroll costs are capped at $100,000 on an annualized basis for each employee.

“I settled on the PPP as the best way to help my company. I applied for the payroll protection program on the first day it was available, which was April, 3, 2020,” said Pesce. “The initial form I filled out was very simple to do. It asked the basics about my overall payroll, who owned the company, the physical address and other similar easy to answer questions. It only took a few minutes to complete and submit.”

On Sunday, just a few days after Pesce filled out the preliminary form he received “a more formal request to substantiate payroll for 2019 and January 1 through February 15, 2020 and to provide proof of it.”

“Monday April 6, 2020, I was busy with my accountant, payroll company and insurance (both health and workman’s comp) to gather information to support my answers, which was a daylong event,” Pesce recalled. “When all was ready I tried without success several times to email all the supporting documentation until finally late in the day it went through.”

“PPP is cool and it’ll cover some operating expenses, but I don’t know anyone who has successfully gotten through and received any money yet,” Sullivan said.

Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan (EIDL)

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000, according to the SBA.

This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application, according to the SBA, and tis loan advance will not have to be repaid.

“Essentially they came out with EIDL, which is similar to what you would do or receive after a big storm,” said Sullivan.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and requires employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Childcare is a category under the FFCRA that provides aid if you’re caring for your child because their school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons. If you’re the primary caregiver you can qualify for the up to 80 hours of paid sick leave. An important note to know for those with children: if you have a child whose school is closed and you’re the primary caregiver you get 12 weeks of paid leave if you are the only person available to take care of said child and if you are not able to continue working or telework. The paid leave for childcare is only at two thirds of your pay versus 100% of your pay.

“I believe the package signed by Congress will help small businesses through this health crisis, said Pesce. “I would tell all small business owners to definitely follow through with applying for any aid they can. It may just be the life saver they will need.”

IWFA Gives an Industry Update

The International Window Film Association (IWFA) recently announced an update on government programs that can aid members of the industry. The association’s physical office is closed and work is currently being done from home offices, according to the IWFA.

The association provided summaries for some of the programs being rolled out on the federal and state levels to assist businesses and employees with their current financial burdens due to COVID-19. The IWFA highlighted the following:

  • General Advice for Individual Member Companies

The IWFA recommends individual member companies: print out copies of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, post in key areas of the business and give it to staff to read and take home to share. Companies should also tell its employees they have the right to ask the customer if they are feeling well if they go out on a sales call or to perform an installation, according to the IWFA.

  • Delay of Federal Tax Filings and Payments

The Treasury Department announced a three-month automatic postponement for filing federal income tax returns and making federal income tax payments.

  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020. All of the benefits may expire on December 31, 2020. It is primarily for emergency paid leave from work. Full-time employees can get up to 80 hours of paid leave, which would be covered by the US Government (not a monetary burden on employers). The maximum benefit is $511 per day, or a total of $5,110.

  • Canadian Program

Canada offers an economic rescue program totaling more than $50 billion for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program aimed at helping unemployed workers.

  • CARES Act

The largest stimulus program in U.S. history called the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the CARES Act includes an expansion of unemployment benefits, direct payments to taxpayers and hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to companies, hospitals and state and local governments.

According to the terms in the CARES Act, Americans will receive a one-time direct deposit of up to $1,200, and married couples will get $2,400, plus an additional $500 per child. The payments will be available for incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable, means-tested benefit programs, such as Social Security.

The Act also extends unemployment insurance through December 31, 2020 for eligible workers and grants an additional $600 per week on top of what state programs pay for four months. It will apply to traditional workers as well as those who are self-employed and 1099 contract workers. The CARES Act waives the 10% early retirement withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 for coronavirus-related purposes, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020

Small Business Loans

$350 billion is being dedicated to prevent layoffs and business closures while workers have to stay home during the outbreak. Companies with 500 employees or fewer that maintain their payroll during coronavirus can receive up to 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance. If employers maintain payroll, the portion of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.