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Coronavirus COVID-19 Resource Hub:

A resource for businesses

Covid header

The Path Forward

In March 2020, we established this dedicated hub as a business resource for our customers to help them manage day-to-day operations when navigating the growing risks associated with COVID-19. As the pandemic and responses to it evolve, we continue to provide content and resources here.

  • How will COVID-19 developments impact and define the challenges ahead?
  • How do businesses and their employees best move forward and adapt to the COVID-19 workplace?
  • How do all of us participate in building a safer, more resilient future?

Lessons and resources to help companies remain open during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We share ideas you can implement to build resilience.

Business travel has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many companies are resuming the practice. Here are some travel safety tips to consider. 

Employer focus on mental wellness can help smooth transitions back to offices, retail businesses and other workplaces following COVID shutdowns.

Avoid pitfalls starting facilities after shutdowns
Sep 21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to temporarily shutter buildings. Reopening those buildings comes with risk.

Richard Gallagher
Line of Business Director for Property, Risk Engineering, The Zurich Services Corporation,
Zurich North America

When many retail, manufacturing, processing and other facilities had to temporarily shut down because of the COVID-19 crisis, businesses needed to carefully consider how to restart those facilities as the economy began to reopen and employees prepared to return to the workplace. As the Delta variant has spread across the country, both businesses and state governments have tried to avoid the kinds of widespread shutdowns America experienced during late winter 2019 through spring 2020. But should shutdowns occur again, either widespread or localized, the same best practices and insights for the protection of idled facilities would apply.

Businesses can expect unoccupied locations to gradually deteriorate unless deliberate steps are taken to care for the building as well as its utilities and contents. This deterioration may be brought on by things like vandalism, an infestation of rodents, birds and vermin, strong winds and heavy rain or snow, high humidity, persistent moisture, water leaks and a lack of periodic system operation.

When a location is unoccupied on a long-term basis (one month or more), the lack of regular human presence may delay the discovery of damage caused by the factors listed above, as well as electrical faults or even the loss of building heat during cold weather. Early discovery of abnormal conditions may allow for intervention before more significant property damage develops.

Businesses forced to close facilities for any length of time during a coronavirus lockdown or some other emergency should take necessary steps to lay-up (or mothball) their buildings to preserve their condition and control further deterioration, as well as make the restart process relatively trouble-free.

Resuming normal operations

When restarting idle facilities, businesses should consider the following actions before, during and after start-up.

It’s important you allow only qualified people to turn on utilities or restart processes. These may include mechanical technicians, electricians, plumbers or process equipment operators.

A process and equipment restart must be a planned operation, follow manufacturers’ guidelines and comply with good engineering practices. It should only be undertaken by trained staff or approved contractors.

The lay-up checklist should be reviewed and used to make certain all isolation and disconnection actions taken as part of the lay-up are reversed in a safe order.

Before start-up

In preparation for restarting, consider the following actions:

  • Confirm idle equipment is shut off.
  • Verify environmental conditions in the building, such as temperature and humidity, are suitable for the equipment.
  • Clean equipment of any contaminants including dust, dirt or oily residues.
  • Verify required legal inspections for pressure vessels, water heaters, boilers and lifting equipment (elevators and escalators) are current. Some domestic water and cooling systems may need sterilization before start-up.
  • Have a qualified technician complete inspection, testing and maintenance procedures for each system, and verify they have corrected any noted deficiencies.

During start-up

Follow the manufacturer’s start-up instructions for each piece of equipment or process. Be prepared to interrupt the restart process should unexpected conditions develop, such as a circuit breaker trip, overheating, sparking, vibration, noise or odors. 

After start-up

During the 24 hours following start-up, you should monitor for signs of abnormal operation. Tour the building to sense any abnormal conditions, such as smoke or odors that may indicate electrical breakdown or leakage of natural gas or fuel oil.

For machinery, you should monitor bearings for vibration and use thermal imaging to monitor temperature of rotating equipment. Where abnormal operation is detected, have the qualified operator implement the emergency shutdown procedure for the machinery.


After a lengthy shutdown, you may return to a facility with a cold boiler system in which the entire piping system and the boiler are cold at ambient temperature. The system is in a contracted state and will expand as the system heats up.

Manufacturers of boilers and fuel-burning systems supply operating manuals with their equipment. Unfortunately, many boiler rooms do not have manuals and operating instructions available because these manuals have either been lost or misplaced. Take time to contact the manufacturer and obtain replacement manuals.

A boiler must be carefully and properly prepared for startup. All facilities should have their own procedures, based on the role that steam plays in a particular facility. It is important to note that the boiler and steam system are often prepared and started before the process units in a large plant because many of the other processes depend on the steam system for start-up or ongoing power supply. If something has been overlooked in the boiler preparation, it may mean costly downtime later.

Related content:
RiskTopics: Management practices: Locations unoccupied long-term and restart procedures
RiskTopics: Long term lay-up and restart of process and industrial plant
RiskTopics: Boiler start-up after extended shutdown

The information in this publication was compiled from sources believed to be reliable for informational purposes only. All sample policies and procedures herein should serve as a guideline, which you can use to create your own policies and procedures. We trust that you will customize these samples to reflect your own operations and believe that these samples may serve as a helpful platform for this endeavor. Any and all information contained herein is not intended to constitute advice (particularly not legal advice). Accordingly, persons requiring advice should consult independent advisors when developing programs and policies. We do not guarantee the accuracy of this information or any results and further assume no liability in connection with this publication and sample policies and procedures, including any information, methods or safety suggestions contained herein. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any of this information, whether to reflect new information, future developments, events or circumstances or otherwise. Moreover, Zurich reminds you that this cannot be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedure or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. The subject matter of this publication is not tied to any specific insurance product nor will adopting these policies and procedures ensure coverage under any insurance policy.


For more information on COVID-19 visit Zurich's Coronavirus Resource Hub