POLL RESULTS: How Health & Safety Professionals Are Doing During the Pandemic

By August 27, 2020 No Comments

Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable members were asked in a special poll how they are handling COVID-19 issues and concerns, and the practices and protocols they are using. These are the questions we asked, and the general consensus:

How are professionals on the ground are handling guidelines, training, complaints, fears, enforcement of policies and other roles and responsibilities?

  • Working to establish / communicate consistent processes and procedures across the company. We have a lot more on our plates right now – and I find that it is more important than ever to take time out for self-care, and I communicate that across our HSE team. We also need to ensure that the teams understand the WHY of what we doing as this always help ensure buy-in and understanding.
  • Amazingly well.  Our EHS team has been very resilient.  The team is working on, and making decisions about, topics that are new to them, but to a person they’re handling it very well.  Although we don’t all agree on the correct response, everyone has pulled together as a team and worked together.
  • Regular weekly inspections.  Continuous contract oversight.  Postings. Work unit trainings.
  • We have implemented a company-wide Emergency Operations Center to support this pandemic. Guidelines, training, etc. funnel through the incident management team working on with the EOC. Safety personnel are in various positions of leadership or response on the team. Field safety personnel direct questions and concerns to the incident management team.
  • Similar to how a firefighter addresses a 3+ alarm fire. Most of the guidelines are being produced/generated by a Corp team and rolled out… some after the fact unfortunately requiring a bit of rework. Training – for COVID-19 our Corp training group has produced the necessary training they are currently working on RTW training too. Complaints? Fears? Not allowed at this company. Seriously, legitimate ones being handled by Corp HR group as well as EAP call in number. Enforcement – that has been primarily EHS and taking up so much time the company has considered hiring “mask and social distancing inspectors”.
  • We are including improvements/work environment adjustments in our existing documentation and training system in order to demonstrate that these measures carry the same weight as all other workplace requirements whether it be safety, quality, etc. We have also put together talking points and informational materials for people managers to share directly with their teams. These communications have highlighted the measures we have taken to safeguard the work environment as well as what employees can and are expected to do.

Is there a “gap” or disconnect, misalignment, between employers wanting to reopen and make up for lost revenues, and health and safety pros who might be more cautious?

  • I believe that the disconnect is in the numerous “data sources” that folks review.  We need to ensure a consistent, science based, methodology is employed, and that the methodology also takes local, regional restrictions and mandates into account.
  • Not at our company.  Senior leadership, which ultimately makes the decision about when to reopen sites, has been very cautious and is making employee safety the first priority.
  • Not clearly known.
  • We are pretty well aligned. At this point, we do have critical field operations that have continued to work. Office personnel have been teleworking since March and will continue to do so until at least 1/2021.
  • No – for the most part our corporate team is calling the shots as to when we open, and they are being ultra conservative. Each site or region must present, and get approved, a RTW plan prior to allowing employees to return.
  • This is a topic that carries some emotions in varying degree from person to person. We are an essential business within manufacturing sector, so we have remained open to some extent throughout the COVID19 pandemic. The views or personal opinions have varied (and continue to vary) within management, individual contributors and line workers as we have navigated through COVID-19. We have had management that wanted to close and employees that wanted to work and vice versa with individuals changing their opinions over time.

Experiences and insights at the critical moment for health and safety professionals.

  • More important than ever that we use our soft skills and employ empathy – we never know what the folks we are interacting with are going through.
  • We’ve learned that we don’t always get our way, and just have to go with it.  It’s more important, once decisions have been made, to put differences aside and work together.
  • Pandemic activity occupies resources and time straining capacity to meet deadlines and requirements. Do more with less.
  • At “the” critical moment? I assume you are asking at “this” critical moment. We have lots of support and corporate leadership. Feels like a functioning team although as this is so new to us, we clearly have a lot to learn. Site and Regional teams are in place now… Corp team is in place. All that took time. Fortunately, about 5 years ago after a meningitis scare, we wrote an Infectious Disease / Pandemic plan for the company. It worked pretty well – it will need to be modified (shortened) and role and responsibilities better defined for sure.
  • There has been a contingent of our workforce that views a case of an employee contracting or being exposed to COVID19 outside of work as the same as a work-related injury since they could bring the “hazard” to work. While OSHA and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has issued guidance that suggests communicating instances of an employee contracting COVID 19, we don’t communicate to the same extent or manner that we would communicate a work-related injury. For that reason, we have spent time providing information to employees regarding how the contact tracing process works and the importance of confidentiality to build trust in the overall process and response to the issue. We have also spent time communicating how an employee’s actions outside of work can impact the work environment.

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