I don’t need to tell you that although we had all hoped for 2021 without COVID 19, the is obviously not the case. With our numbers of positive cases still climbing alarmingly every day around the country, as the food industry, we need to settle into the trenches. It is going to be a while.
We have to do everything we can to ensure the food sector is able to provide a consistent supply of food, so consumers have continued access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food during this pandemic. We are not doing this in a bubble however and the food industry needs to take on additional specific precautions for their sites and employees to keep them safe and healthy. You have been doing this for the last 9 months and it must continue.
What do we need to do now for the long haul?
The media is keeping us well informed of the magnitude of the second wave and as such this should provide the right level of urgency to review the controls you put in place in 2020. It is time to look at any crack that may have developed in our armor and attend to these.
Yes, we are all so over this virus but the fact remains, our employees' lives are still at risk. Now is the right time to review the training materials from last year and add in new information. My experience is that many people dismissed the disease. Now things are different. Do not assume that just because we have been talking about this for a while that everyone has been listening. Allow employees to share their concerns, experiences, and questions during training.
You will have had some experience by now on the psychological toll of the pandemic. After nearly 10 months, we are all a little worn down. Now, may be the right time to bring in some professionals who can address this aspect of employee health. Even the WHO suggests that we should find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19. For example, stories of people who have recovered or who have supported a loved one and are willing to share their experiences. It is time to dig deep to maintain an attitude of positivity within the workforce.
But we cannot ignore the real tragedies that people may have experienced. Grief support and counseling should be considered for affected staff.
While working from home may protect employees, there are other stresses that should be considered. Employees may have been working erratic and longer hours to manage their children during school disruptions. You can burn out working from home. Remote working policies should be considered including etiquette for virtual meetings and digital correspondence. It’s really not reasonable to expect employees to respond to emails at 9 pm on a Sunday evening, is it?
We have been working with some additional controls in place now for a while. Have we become blind to the systems and we may even have taken shortcuts in recent months. Perhaps we didn’t implement certain controls blaming budgets…If you have had employees who have tested positive, now is the right time to do a proper root cause analysis and implement corrective action. Looking the other way for the sake of convenience may cause someone to lose their lives.
This is a team effort and the time for a strong show of leadership. We will get through this. We salute your efforts and thank you our #foodsafetyheroes