Operating in a COVID-secure way

COVID-19 has changed the way we work, and it’s the same for businesses across the globe. Following government advice, of “work from home where possible”, our office-based staff started the process of setting up in their home environments. Our industry was identified as an essential service, and personnel at our print sites were identified as key workers, so we were faced with the task of being able to prioritise the safety and well-being of our staff and contractors whilst ensuring production.

Here, we speak to Peter Hutchison – Health, Safety, Environment and Security Manager for Scotland and the North East – to get an insight into the operational challenges we were facing at Reach Printing Services, and the implementation of plans and procedures to ensure that the business operated in a COVID-secure way.

From the moment that events started to unfold, can you tell us what your role entailed, and what were the key objectives?

  • Talking to people, to understand potential hazards we had not previously encountered, and their possible impact on our people.
  • Establishing control teams at our sites, to identify and plan for possible risks caused by the pandemic spread.
  • Carrying out appropriate risk assessment, to define hazards, risk controls and their effective minimisation.
  • Promoting access to our well-being services, talking about the perceived barriers to seeking help or just talking to someone who will not judge them.

Communication and collaboration have been absolutely key to ensuring that guidance was followed. How has this been achieved?

Traditionally established H&S notification and formal communication pathways were rapidly overtaken by the rate of pandemic spread and by societal isolation to mitigate effects. Learning and development of our management teams – to understand, discuss with and support colleagues who were experiencing fatigue, well-being issues or isolation – prepared them for the challenges brought by the pandemic. It also allowed our management teams to develop more innovative, individual, face-to-face communication, supported by high-profile infographics in communal areas. One for the future!

Can you explain what procedures were put in place to ensure safety and continued production? 

Targeted hygiene and sanitisation campaigns were used to highlight the most effective barriers to spread, supported by infographics and physically distanced toilet, shower and washing facilities. All work practices were adapted to establish safe physical distancing, except in a very few short-term occasions, where appropriate PPE was utilised.

What would you describe as the biggest operational difficulty you encountered in the process, and how did you overcome this challenge?

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic has constantly tested our management teams, but has confirmed their ability to adapt and succeed in the most challenging conditions.

What’s the plan going forward, and how do we combat ‘COVID fatigue’? 

As part of our business continuity, we have now established effective operating systems that use hygiene orientated, physically distanced working practices that have become the ‘normal’ for all our colleagues and business partners. We have been lessening individual burdens and opening awareness to the well-being support we can provide.

The ability to sustain an effective business service to all our customers during this unprecedented pandemic has demonstrated our ability to respond to any challenge, and to maintain a safe working place for all our colleagues and business partners. New work practices we’ve established are now embedded to meet future long-term personal safety and business needs post-COVID.

We are ready for the future!

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