New Considerations in the Time of COVID
By: Gene Bernard, The Gluten Free Bar; Greg Bigus, Accord Carton; Jodi Haggith, Bonduelle Americas; Annie Piepenhagen, Dairy Farmers of America
Social and business norms are changing at the speed of light during this pandemic. It’s not just about adapting to change anymore though – it’s also about making personal connections while staying socially distant, learning and practicing new behaviors, and all while keeping up morale. Here are a few tips and tricks to help your team members weather the change and let them know you care.
Keeping it Personal
- If you’re having any difficulty getting people to stay 6′ apart (or wear masks, face shields, etc.), try this trick. Ask the class to close their eyes picture someone that is very special to them. Could be a family member, friend, neighbor or pet. Ask them if they’re willing to jeopardize that person’s life. Being in too much of a hurry to follow a safety practice or because their face mask isn’t comfortable or because they don’t think it’s important to wash their hands or maintain social distancing will do just that.
Bottom line, will they sacrifice a loved one for a personal convenience? Call out a couple of participants. Ask them to tell you who their special someone is. And ask if their personal convenience or comfort is more important to them than the person in their photo.
- Next, follow up while on the manufacturing floor by finding participants to ask about the person in their photo. Ask the persons first name and talk to them about why they are so special. Then thank that employee for doing what is necessary to keep their special someone – and yours – safe and healthy.
Shifting Training Paradigm
- The need for a spacious area to train or conduct pre-shift / post-shift meetings has become a real need in the time of social distancing. If your training room or gathering space is very small, see if you can setup a projector and screen in a warehouse area to accommodate the 6’ rule.
- Regardless of where you train, measure out 6′ intervals and mark them with tape on the floor or pre-position chairs. For quick training sessions, having employees set up chairs and clean/sanitize them before and after may be prohibitive. Standing may be the best option.Group training is still an option when social distancing is followed. Individual response “clickers” to track people’s responses need to be kept clean and sanitary.
- You should wipe clickers down before and after each session with a sanitizer. If you have enough PPE available, you may want to provide gloves to learners during a training session.
Or you may want to use inexpensive plastic bags – like sandwich bags – to encase your clickers. Simply discard after training and replace with new prior to the next session.
- Training class sizes will probably become smaller depending on the space you are training in. Scheduling additional sessions and adapting your learning plans may be warranted to keep up with a smaller number of participants.
- Remember that your employees don’t know what they don’t know. It’s up to you to teach them the proper use of PPE, what social distancing is, why it is important, and proper public health etiquette like sneezing and coughing into the elbow.
- Keeping your distance is a hard thing. Putting green tape dots on the floor spaced approximately six feet apart anywhere where employees can congregate (time clocks, main entry hallways) is a helpful reminder that they should keep their distance.
- If you have a lot of employees entering and exiting the facility at one time, staggered start times may help to eliminate congestion and allow for more social distancing.
- The same applies for break and lunch times. Review the seating arrangements in these areas and use signage, caution tape, or what ever works to make sure employees are spaced appropriately. All food for thought.
- There is now a need to limit the number of people using the hand wash stations at one time. Place tape or dots to help form an appropriate queue for employees waiting to cleanse their hands for proper social distancing with others while waiting in line.
- The use of PPE cannot be taken lightly or misunderstood. Teach your employees the proper use. It’s not as simple as putting them on and taking them off. The correct procedures will help prevent the spread of illness keeping the employee, their peers, families, and community from becoming another statistic. And for those that don’t want to comply – well sometimes you have to exercise severe consequences so everyone understands this is serious business.
- Operators may need to be trained to clean their workstations at the beginning and end of each shift. Help them define the human contact points on their machine. Have them wipe down machine buttons, computer keyboards, material handling equipment such as hand jacks. And be sure to use a solution that is 60% ethanol.
- Have employees remove any pens or markers which are personal to their own usage from workstations when they are done with their shift. Sharing of writing utensils, clipboards, and other items can be a little noticed disease transmitter.
- Restrooms and all other public areas will need more cleaning more frequently. Consider bringing in a third party to handle this. And let employees know that they also have a role in keeping these areas clean to help prevent the spread of illness from peer to peer.
- Truck Drivers pose an outside-in type of concern. What can they bring from the many places they visit on the outside into your facility? Consider having them call the facility upon arrival to be directed to a Dock Door Number. Once backed in, it may be better to ask the driver to stay in the cab of his truck to receive his paperwork from an employee who is mandated to wear a mask, and gloves, while also keeping to distancing requirements.
Build in Some Fun
- In these stressing times everyone needs some fun diversion. Whether you opt for Blue Jeans Mondays or Rock and Roll Tuesdays or Favorite Sports Jersey Friday incorporate some fun.
Something to lighten the mood will provide a breath of mental health fresh air.
- Just like hazardous duty compensation for the military, critical infrastructure workers on the front lines need some sort of recognition of the service they are providing to our country. Whether it’s additional pay or free coffee and soft drinks in the lunchroom be sure to honor those that you work with and thank them for their service.
- Reinforcement is important to provide reminders, but they don’t have to be impersonal. Enlist your colleagues to help illustrate what 6 feet looks like. And don’t forget to wear your Hawaiian shirts on picture day!
- They say that the most successful people are those that are the most adaptable. And in the age of pandemic, where we find ourselves now, we need to adapt daily. Help your employees, company, facility, and even your families be successful by following public health guidelines, practicing the proper use of PPE, following GMPs, and embracing new practices.All of us are counting on all of you.