2020 Takeaways: Pandemic action plans and lessons learned at Grieg SeafoodKathy Sigstad
By Jennifer Wiebe
At Grieg Seafood, as at companies around the province, the Provincial Health Officer’s declaration of a state of emergency required immediate action to develop and implement protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A year later, we look back with OHS Manager Delia Harsan at the company’s response and critical lessons learned as they look ahead.
Ready for action
As they started the New Year in 2020, Grieg Seafood was celebrating the recent completion of their Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence (OSSE) certification journey. The Grieg Seafood team’s effort in building its OSSE-quality safety program paid immediate dividends when faced with the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Having a mature health and safety program in place helped us to react with an immediate and consistent response to the wave of anxiety that developed after the initial public health announcements about the pandemic,“ Harsan says.
“With established health and safety systems in place, we were well-equipped to provide clarity, guidance, and leadership to our staff during this exceptional time.“
Like other companies across the province, COVID-19 protocols meant significant changes in operations at Grieg Seafood. The company‘s main office in Campbell River closed in March, requiring office staff to work from home. Opening partially in November, Grieg restricted non-essential visits to all sites and allowed 25 percent occupancy in the office. Many office staff continue to work from home.
New protocols included extensive signage, new cleaning requirements for shared work areas, and masks for staff to wear when physical distancing was impossible. Also, Grieg cancelled all shared transportation for workers, including crew vans and boats.
Demonstrating their commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace for all their workers, contractors, and visitors, Grieg Seafood’s team developed a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control plan to clearly outline its protocols and controls to prevent community spread of the disease. The plan outlined expectations that guided the development of standard operating procedures at the company‘s sea sites, hatchery, office, and operations crews.
Supporting training and communications, the company also developed safety talks, scenario flow charts, and FAQs.
Steady on course
Amid their pandemic planning, Grieg Seafood decided to continue implementing and validating their OHS programs.
“One key priority was to maintain our OSSE certification,“ Harsan notes, “and we were able to stay on track with our schedule for completing safety audits at a third of our locations in September 2020.“
Looking ahead, Harsan says, the company‘s safety goals include implementing the action plan from their 2020 OSSE audit and continuing to validate their safety management system, maintaining their certification in 2021. The company is working to measure safety performance by tracking leading and lagging indicators and reducing the lost-time incident rate.
Eyes to the horizon
Looking to the future, Harsan adds that the pandemic has created learning opportunities for health and safety practitioners. “We had to adapt quickly,“ she says, and notes that Grieg Seafood has emerged with these key takeaways:
- “Plan for the future,” Harsan says. “It‘s important to respond to those changes to take control of the situation by mitigating risks.“
- “Be prepared to guide staff to continue to safely operate when they cannot access their regular workplaces settings,“ she adds.
- “Health and safety professionals need to be involved in emergency planning and response,” she says, “to help their organizations to adjust.“
- “And knowing how to communicate during a crisis is essential,” she says. “The pandemic produced fear among all of us due to the uncertainty.“ For safety professionals and leaders, Harsan notes, “It is essential to know how to make your workers feel that you are there, you listen, and you care about how they feel.“
How is that playing out in the company‘s approach to health and safety today? Harsan says, “Grieg Seafood made health and safety a priority during the pandemic.“ The company‘s senior management team, she notes, took proactive steps “to make sure that our safety commitment extends to every employee and contractor we work with.”
“Health and safety is integrated into everything we do,” Harsan says, “including our day-to-day planning, development, and maintenance,“ adding: “We partner with communities and contractors who also believe in the importance of health and safety and implementing best practices.”
“I am proud to work for a company that values health and safety as a foundational element,” Harsan says. “Across our organization, we have so many dedicated employees who work to ensure hazards are identified and appropriately addressed. Our goal is to ensure that our workers come home safe and healthy at the end of every workday.”