Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers and food processors have had to adapt quickly to continue essential operations under strange, new rules. Months later, we’re still learning about the virus, and questions persist about the best controls and policies to keep people safe at work.

In this special edition of Make It Safe Magazine, we address those questions with review of the critical steps to safeguard our people and workplaces.

When the crisis happens and when you’re really tested, your values and priorities are tested.

How companies have dealt with this will have an impact on their long-term culture, and so if they’ve missed this as an opportunity to show leadership and establish trust, then that’s going to hurt those companies well into the future. And if you’ve done the opposite, then you’ll benefit from that more.

Having established that trust in our safety culture for the last number of years really benefited us. We were able to respond very quickly and collaboratively with our teams.”

— Nick Reiach, Great Little Box Company in a June executive panel on Leading the Recovery

Leadership has always been a critical factor in workplace health and safety, but the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled leaders to think differently about how we lead – and how we protect our people at work.

As we continue to assess the COVID-19 risks in the workplace, ongoing outbreaks and the potential for a second wave remain a threat to business continuity.

Now is the time for leaders to demonstrate a commitment to safety through our actions and decisions and to reflect on the experiences of employees working through an unprecedented global crisis.

The impact on employees’ mental wellness cannot be ignored. Our teams are managing challenges they have never faced before:

  • Working remotely and using technology and practices that they are unfamiliar with
  • Working with their children at home
  • Staffing shortages resulting from co-workers who are sick, quarantined, or anxious about coming to work
  • Social isolation or separation from extended family
  • General concerns about living through a pandemic

As leaders, we are being called to reimagine our workplaces through a health and safety lens. To help workers make choices that protect their health, the health of their peers, and the health of your business. To communicate clearly and often about the steps we are taking to protect employees, addressing concerns quickly and with empathy.

We lead through meaningful two-way communications with workers, by continually checking in with our teams—and by guarding own physical health and resilience so we can be there for our people.

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on health and safety at work and created an opportunity for leaders to build engagement with employees by demonstrating our commitment to their safety and wellbeing. A safe and healthy workforce sustains our businesses and supply chain—and is becoming an increasingly vital factor in recruiting and retaining staff.

Where we focus our energy in a crisis and how we navigate through the challenges along the way defines our leadership, values and brand. How are you leading the way to a safe and sustainable future for your business?