Adapting Production and Operations under COVID-19 Conditions
Lessons from Three Essential Businesses
Many organisations will be preparing to resume operations as we move to Alert Level 3 from next Tuesday, 28 April and working through the Government guidance as to what is required to comply. There are many essential businesses that have already been working under these conditions. So we spoke to people from three Priority One member businesses, Mandy Jarvis (Bluelab), Daniel Ramsey (North Island Mussels Ltd) and James Trevelyan (Trevelyan's), about their experiences and any observations and recommendations they have for businesses who’ll now be looking to adapt their operations.
They’ve generously agreed to share their knowledge, and we’ve set out a summary of key points below. We know every organisation will be different, and you’ll still need to work through Government guidance for yourself (see links at the end of this article). But hopefully this provides useful concrete examples of how three different businesses have worked through the requirements.
Overall policies. The three businesses have all put in place company-wide policies including:
- Workplace pandemic protocols with detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for each alert level;
- Setting up a dedicated COVID-19 team. This will review and audit practice, but can also manage business communications, coordinate any specific COVID-19 activities;
- Keeping staff on-site to the minimum, so all staff who can (for example those office-based) are still working from home;
- Developing COVID-19 induction and training with a sign-off you can see NIML’s example here;
- Having daily signoff accountability sheets for cleaning of communal and workspaces you see NIMLs example here.
Social Distancing. Operations need to change to keep distance between people. The most challenging aspects of this are where there is a high degree of movement required, especially moving larger groups of people around e.g. for breaks and at start/end of shifts. Practices they’ve implemented include:
- Creating one-way pedestrian systems through the workplace;
- Marking the floors in high density locations (e.g. break rooms, canteens) to create defined;
- Marking locations of furniture in break rooms and requiring that it not be moved;
- Use of screens to create additional protection zones (a photo from North Island Mussels below);
- Using unused office space as workspace where possible;
- Continuing to use online tools (Teams, Zoom etc.) for meetings;
- Splitting up breaks (e.g. lunch) to limit numbers of people at any one time and having clear maximum occupancy for rooms;
- Giving staff the choice to take breaks and lunch in their cars. They can listen to music/podcasts, get comfy and avoid contact;
- If you’re lucky enough to have a CAD Engineer on staff, or you can access one, using them to create 3D drawings of your space and create 2m work zone and transit spacings.
You can see a walk through video of Trevelyan's at the below link, which shows especially how they’ve managed the flow of people and set-up of rooms.
Personal hygiene and protective equipment (PPE) practice. This is another significant new area to factor into operations. Some recommendations and observations around keeping safe and reducing the risk of transmission include:
- Daily temperature testing protocol for all staff;
- Highly visible hand washing systems and constant reinforcement of the message around hand washing (see NIML’s handwashing protocol here;
- Develop and implement a clear, highly structured process for getting safely people on/off site, into/out of PPE, hands washed, temperature taken etc. This can take some time at both ends of the day;
- When obtaining PPE, make sure you confirm the lead times first and allow time as even once you secure PPE gear the freighting is protracted can be a challenge. Lead times can be in excess of 2 months;
- Use faceshields for work requiring high levels of physical activity and where interaction are at 1-2m. Facemasks can be impractical where the worker has a high respiration rate;
- Some people have access to 3D printers, and if so you can make face shields cheaply and easily. If you want the file then contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll connect you;
- Giving staff the option of a facemask even when it is not required. This provides piece of mind, a sense of security and that they are being looked after;
- Grouping staff into ‘bubbles’ to limit any potential spread of the virus if someone does contract it.
People. Having people working from home and onsite creates a new dynamic. When some people are on site, it can accentuate challenges because staff working from home have less visibility. Companies need systems to support connectivity and effectiveness of all the team. Some practices include:
- Self-rating systems for all staff to keep track of wellbeing);
- Asking for photos of home office set up to ensure appropriate H&S;
- Friday night virtual drinks that include all staff;
- Weekly video from the CE/GM (especially useful if you have teams in other locations).
Also communicate with staff about expectations and what the guidelines mean at different levels. For example, we’ve seen some employees can believe that the employee subsidy means they can choose not to work.
Links to the official Government Guidance starting with the below
- Government guidance on workplace operations at COVID-19 Alert Levels
- Worksafe COVID-19 Safety plan
- Worksafe Guidance on transitioning from Alert Level 4
Photo: Canteen at NIML with screens to create protection zones.