Companies urge COVID caution

Local News
- 26 Aug 2021 ( #1040 )
5 min read
Testing to ensure confidence
Testing to ensure confidence
By Allan Leibowitz
As countries start to return to a 'new normal', many materials handling equipment workers around the world continue to work from home.

Corporate office staff at Cascade Corporation are still working remotely, as are office staff in other global locations where they are so directed by public health directives, according to president and CEO Davide Roncari. However, he adds, "Our production teams are currently working onsite and following in-country protocols."

Briggs Equipment Group spokesman Thomas Peace says that throughout the pandemic, employees who are unable to carry out their role at home have continued to work from Briggs Equipment locations, with the remainder operating remotely. "Our plans for a co-ordinated return to office working are being regularly reviewed."

At Belgian parts giant TVH, staff at the biggest offices such as in Belgium and the US still work in silos, according to corporate spokesperson Isabelle van de Voorde. "Teams have been divided in two or three groups and every silo works partially at home and partially at the office. Of course, a large number of our colleagues could not work from home because of the kind of work they do (for example, those in the logistics department)."

Irish manufacturer Combilift put measures in place which have allowed it to bring all employees back to the office, while maintaining a safe working environment. "With our new manufacturing facilities, we are able to adhere to social distancing guidelines for staff," says managing director Martin McVicar.

The Combilift effort to ensure a COVID-safe work environment includes weekly saliva-based PCR testing, thermal imaging cameras, contactless clock-in machines, the installation of copper on all surfaces that employees may touch, designated canteen areas for different sectors of the company and perspex screens between office staff.

At Briggs, a wide range of preventative measures at all locations have been in place since March 2020 in line with relevant government and public health guidelines, according to Peace. "This includes mask wearing, social distancing, sanitising stations and working from home where possible. We will continue to follow this advice moving forward and work with our people to provide a safe working environment.

"Our employees have also been fully compliant with site-specific regulations whenever working at customer locations."

Cascade's Roncari insists the health and safety of employees continues to be of the utmost importance. "We have (followed) and continue to follow directives set forth by local health authorities at all of our global locations. In the US, for example, after the CDC adjusted face mask guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, we have maintained use of face masks in the work environment when social distancing is not possible, or when working in common work areas."

TVH's van de Voorde says her company has taken all necessary measures, following the national guidelines of each country, and added extra measures where necessary to protect colleagues' health and to make everyone feel safe at work. "Some of the measures included working from home, one-way pedestrian traffic, room capacity limitations, face masks, making alcogel available, increased cleaning and more.

"We have worked on the awareness and importance of following all the guidelines, eg. by handing out social distancing decals, putting up posters and sending update communications on COVID," she explains.

Vaccination moves
Linamar Corporation and its Skyjack division have raised the bar, setting up a vaccination clinic in Guelph, Canada and administering 56,000 vaccines.

Skyjack president Ken McDougall says Linamar and Skyjack teams, volunteers and public health staff "did exceptional jobs transforming the Skyjack Customer Access Centre into a vaccination clinic".

"In a short period of time, they ensured a smooth operation to immunise our community. We're proud to have been part of such an important and historic initiative."

While most of the companies contacted by Forkliftaction News don't have specific staff vaccination policies, TVH is actively promoting 'the jab'.

"We aim to get as many colleagues as possible vaccinated. We believe that vaccination is the right way out of this situation and that this is the way to go back to a 'normal' life where people can visit family and friends without having to be afraid of COVID," says van de Voorde, adding that there are some regional differences in the proportion of people that have been vaccinated so far.

The UKMHA has weighed into the vaccination debate by sharing an article outlining the legal minefield around 'no jab no job'.

The article notes that businesses can choose to enforce vaccination, but it also cautions against taking a 'broad brush' approach which could open up the risk of tribunal claims.

Peace says there are no plans to introduce a specific vaccination policy at Briggs Equipment "and we don't request vaccination proof from our employees".

Similarly, Roncari says, "We are not requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment, nor are we formally tracking employee vaccination status."

In Australia, logistics giant Toll recently introduced paid leave of up to four hours for employees to attend COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Chief human resources officer Vikram Cardozo says Toll is committed to supporting the vaccination rollout across its Australian workforce.

"We want to do everything we can to protect our people against COVID-19," he stresses. "Offering paid leave is one important way that we are supporting our people to get vaccinated, which will protect our teams and communities."

Continued vigilance is required, especially while workforces are not fully vaccinated.

Combilift's McVicar recommends regular PCR testing as "a great way to keep staff safe while also providing confidence to staff in coming to work".

"Having the ability to keep track of temperature is a great way of spotting a spike in a person's temperature and so our thermal imaging cameras are proving to be a great help in this," he explains.

Cascade's Roncari recommends continuing to follow preventative measures (social distancing, mask wearing, etc.) until we have definitive scientific guidance regarding the variants and how they spread, regardless of vaccination status.

The advice from TVH is to keep communication lines open. "Be transparent with your staff and be open for questions. Keep sticking to the measures as long as it takes and until you are confident enough that there is no more danger. Your co-workers are the heart of your company, so you need to take care of them and protect them wherever possible. Though this has been a tough period, there is light at the end of the tunnel," says van de Voorde.

"Be thankful for the hard work everyone has done in these difficult times, try to keep everyone connected - even if people are working remotely - and throw a party as soon as this is possible," she adds.
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