As teams start returning to work amidst the COVID-19 crisis, what will the “new norm” look like in your facility? There may be great opportunities to embrace new ways of thinking and new approaches to improve the working environment for your team. Let’s discuss a few areas we can start thinking about while using a legacy building mindset.
People are the most important asset to a company, so ensuring our work family feels safe once they return to work should always be a top priority. Over the last few years, it was common practice to cut spending around housekeeping and custodial work. Many teams reduced staffing and services. In some facilities, we even took on cleaning our own offices and removing trash to reduce costs. We will certainly need to step up our hygiene game now. Washrooms and offices will need to be cleaned more often and thoroughly.
This may be a good opportunity to have your planner and scheduler build highly detailed task list, job plans and schedules around the new expectations. What gets cleaned? How often? Which products? How much is used? Then there is the necessary task of tracking material costs. Many of these cleaning products where probably consumables before and now need to be stored properly and controlled with a min/max number.
Another approach to improving hygiene is to explore options for updating restrooms, drinking fountains, and common sinks. There are many developments in plumbing technology that will allow hands free use on items such as faucets and sanitizer dispensers. Will it be helpful to install toilet lids to reduce droplets? The less we must touch, the better we will be.
All those doors, all those handles, all those knobs, and all those rails. How are we sanitizing the items that several people touch many times a day? Do we look into auto openers or sensing technology?
Now on to the very popular break or lunchroom. Who is cleaning the tables and surfaces and how often? Is the fridge getting sanitized? The condiments and flatware should not be exposed out in the open and probably will need a proper dispenser. And how about that coffee pot? How do we keep cups sanitized? Will teams be allowed to bring and share homemade treats or donuts?
We will absolutely need to step up our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)game. How are we sanitizing our safety glasses? Are we well stocked up on masks and gloves? Does everyone have their own gear? Are they trained on proper cleaning and inspection techniques? Does it make sense to provide uniforms and/or a proper laundry service? I always wondered how many of those kids in the fast food industry actually wash their uniforms frequently.
Our safety and environmental teams will need to think about taking on sanitizing and cleaning products. Do we have all the proper safety data sheets? Is everything labeled? Is everything stored properly. Are the teams well trained on safety and knowing which products cannot be mixed? Is there proper ventilation?
We also need to train up our company nurse and first responders. Do they have the proper PPE? Will they know what to do if they come across someone with COVID-19 symptoms?
We are all human and some of us have worked many years together. What will the policy be about handshakes, fist pumps, and hugging? Does it make sense to stagger our employee hours or have teams use different entrances to reduce contact and congestion at timeclocks?
These are just a few points to ponder as we go back to work. There are many other areas to think about: HVAC/air quality, meeting rooms, assembly lines, etc. In order to be effective, it must be a group effort and new ways of thinking must be embraced. Managers, engineers, planners, and environment health & safety (EHS) will all need to combine talents, particularly in leadership and change management, to help our teams. Most importantly, always remember to provide your teams the opportunity to make their challenges and concerns known. Communication the fastest and most efficient way to identify critical issues the team needs to focus on.
What are you doing to protect your team? What necessary changes will your facility be making? Let us know in the comments below.
Larry is a Continuous Improvement (CI) specialist in asset management practices with over 20+ years of maintenance experience. Having initiated his career as a Parachute Rigger/Paratrooper for the US Army, Larry has a strong core focus on safety for both personnel and equipment. Inspiring his reliability journey, Larry continued to craft his leadership skills through a variety of roles from Lead Pipefitter, Maintenance Planner/Scheduler, Maintenance Integrity & Execution Coach, to Strategic Downtime & Reliability Specialist.