Plamil Foods Ltd have been manufacturing award winning Vegan food products since the 1960’s, building their reputation and brand on the quality of their products and their ethics. In addition to its own brand, much of what this company manufactures becomes a key ingredient for other food processors, which makes it essential that this company can continue production during the Covid-19 pandemic to help keep shelves stocked.
Despite maintaining the highest standards of health and hygiene as would be expected in a quality food manufacturing plant, staff remained concerned about their health during the Coronavirus pandemic. Clearly they could not work from home, so how could they be reassured that their exposure to Coronavirus was kept to the absolute minimum and to a point that it was safe to work? So Plamil approached PHSC to undertake a workplace assessment.
What We Did
PHSC visited and walked around each area identifying work arrangements such as how many people worked in each area and the space available to maintain two metres distance; the access and egress routes available; the hygiene arrangements; welfare facilities and where contractors (delivery drivers etc) circulated when on site.
Time was spent with the warehouse team providing informal training so they could understand: how the virus was spread, how people could catch it, how measures such as personal hygiene and social distancing are effective in avoiding the risk of infection. This included guidance on some false protective measures such as wearing gloves constantly (they only help when they are changed/washed as methodically as hand-washing) and adopting more effective alternatives such as placing a tissue around their hand when touching a door handle, using their arm/elbow to open a door, or even to pull their sleeve over their hand if they needed to grasp something quickly. This way at least their hands remained separated from an object that could be contaminated, and supplementing this with frequent hand-washing or use of sanitiser which was available in every area of the company’s premises.
Simple quick and easy measures were recommended to ensure that enhanced safety protocols could always be followed. These included:
- Marking a line on the floor in production for workers to queue behind and a marked defined walkway for them to follow so each operative could maintain sufficient distance whilst changing their overclothes and signing in rather than crowding in the same area whilst clocking in and out.
- Displaying signs at the door of each area about the maximum number of people allowed to be in each space simultaneously.
- Stopping hot desking / sharing of workstations in the reception area and main office, and ensuring there was sufficient space between office staff. As some office staff were able to complete their work from home this assisted in creating greater and safer space for those essential to site functions.
- Sanitising the locker handles and padlocks daily (although each worker had their own padlock and locker) as an additional hygiene precaution.
- Identifying areas such as sanitising the steering wheel / gearstick and seat of the lift truck after use (in addition to the ongoing and hygiene regime that was already in place).
- Setting a maximum number of staff to visit the rest room/canteen at any one time, and to arrange for work breaks around this number so those in the room could always maintain at least two metres distance.
- Sanitising daily the mouse/keyboard and desk of workstations in production/warehouse areas that were shared (by providing antibacterial wipes or spraying sanitiser onto a clean cloth and wiping).
- Providing a briefing to staff on all the measures that were agreed and the reasons why so they are able to understand how it is helping them.
Whilst many good practices had already been actioned by Plamil Foods, the additional independent advice by an expert that was communicated using simple language gave staff that extra support and reassurance they needed. Staff reported immediately that they felt much more confident in being able to continue working safely, as the risk of catching Coronavirus was minimal whilst these additional controls were being followed.
The assessment visit and training /advice given to staff demonstrated that Plamil Foods clearly place a high priority to staff safety. The practical advice given will assist both the business and staff to continue operation during the Covid-19 crisis, enabling it to play its part in feeding the Nation and for the business to be in a position to return quickly to full operation when the pandemic risk reduces.
Each company has its own workplace challenges. Businesses that are essential to maintaining operation during the pandemic may wish to seek their own specific third party assurance to staff that all reasonable measures to ensure ongoing safety and health are being provided. If you would like to know more, please call PHSC now.