Blog Posts

Responding to COVID-19 – Shifts in Company and Colleague Behavior

22 July 2020

We explore the impact that the global pandemic has made on the roles of our Environmental, Health, and Safety Managers and how this has initiated company-wide changes in day-to-day working practices that will stand the test of time.

We interviewed our colleagues from our US and UK plants to get their insight.

Top Image [Left to right at Morgan Hill,CA, USA:
Brian Wood—EHS Specialist, Erik Rockwell—EH&S Manager, Steve Austin—EHS Technician]

Bottom Image [Left to right at Langley Mill, Nottingham, UK:
Dr. John A Cook—Health, Safety and Site Services Manager, Adam Pilgrim—Process Engineer]

Toray EH+S Colleagues

1. How has your role changed as EH&S Manager with the onset of COVID-19?

[Eric Rockwell] There has been a great deal of new directives and protocols that have required detailed interpretation and implementation. Although that is part of what I enjoy about this field, balancing the implementation of new protocols and continuing to drive EHS initiatives and support daily operations has become increasingly more challenging as the pandemic progresses. Much of our department’s continued success with this balancing act is a result of the combined effort of other departments such as Human Resources and Facilities.

[John Cook] Maintaining the safety of people continues to be my top priority. We have proactively reviewed procedures in our production environment to ensure we are COVID-safe and comply with all government guidance, including minimizing number of workers onsite. I also need to ensure the site safety and maintenance schedule continues, as often many of these activities are time sensitive and also have a direct impact on the safety of our colleagues. We have managed this through only allowing third parties onsite out-of-hours/when no production staff are present. Safety compliance is more important now than ever. I predominantly work from home and rely on supervisors and peer-to-peer enforcement of safety policies and procedures.

The utilization of MS Teams software has facilitated teamwork and allowed those home working to stay connected. It’s important to be mindful of mental health and managing stress.

2. How have employees’ behaviors and sentiments changed in light of new procedures and protocols to eliminate contact?

[ER] Since some employees have begun working on site and manufacturing operations have ramped up close to normal, I have seen nothing but positive participation from our employees. There has been an overwhelming sense of support and teamwork, not only for those facing the same challenges onsite but those working from home as well. Many employees have helped with suggestions to improve our new standards and processes in our effort to comply with social distancing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for all. This really has been a situation where teams have come together on all levels to develop solutions, they want to be part of the solution. This is a situation that impacts every employee and their families. In times of adversity, we see people, teams, and companies become stronger. That is what I am seeing every day with our workforce.

[JC] A sense of community has become stronger, with colleagues looking out for each other now more than ever. The safety culture that it is everyone’s responsibility has really come to life during this pandemic, with colleagues initiating their own communication of how to stay Coronavirus -free [refer to external door sign]. Two-meter social distancing was immediately adopted and continues to be critical.

3. What changes do you see more permanent, even after the pandemic has passed?

[ER] I think there will now be an increased awareness of the relationship between personal hygiene and industrial hygiene and the associated impact we can have on one another at work. Generally common practices in the workplace (such as frequent hand sanitizing, disinfecting common areas, and covering coughs and sneezes) will now be adhered to much more strictly. There will be a much closer correlation between our health at work and our health at home. Also, the North American cultural tendency of coming to work even when you have a cold or feel like you may be getting sick is no longer going to be acceptable. Businesses proactively creating policies about staying home when you feel sick will be more common, as well as other efforts to change this practice.

[JC] Our approach to work is much more flexible, and I can see this sentiment continuing, for example, through more use of virtual meetings. Also, as the pandemic has encouraged a further review of our processes, any improvements will continue to be incorporated into our working procedures.

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