Director of Marketing and Product Strategy
The Coronavirus pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives and will leave a lasting footprint on our social and business interactions for decades to come. EHS professionals, many of whom operate in essential industries, are tasked with overseeing the health and safety of employees while enacting and updating business continuity plans. This has left many scrambling to reprioritize efforts and seeking guidance and validation from their peers.
On April 8th, Dakota Software hosted a Roundtable webinar for our user community to share their ideas and experiences with each other. Three panelists lead a discussion with nearly 200 in attendance. During the discussion, we conducted a series of polls to guide the discussion and quantify attendee sentiment. Below are some of the results and observations from the event.
Few respondents stated that they were unable to implement social distancing measures or unwilling to add shifts, but many are staggering shift start and stop times as well as scheduled breaks in order to limit physical interactions. Attendees stated that they are also staggering lunch times. The addition of physical barriers to force distancing was also a popular tactic with attendees. Others noted that they restrict office access to one team member at a time by department and limit the total number of staff in a room at one time.
PPE was a popular discussion topic with poll results showing that breathing zone protection requirements are the most likely to have changed. Attendees had many questions and offered suggestions about the use of cloth masks, cleaning of cloth masks, and disinfection and sterilization of N95 masks. Hand protection and respirator also ranked high with many comments around interpretation of respirator usage and CDC guidelines. Attendees also inquired about the effectiveness and legality of taking employees temperatures before shifts and the breakdown of social distancing that the action often requires.
While technologies like Google Office, Zoom, and Slack had gained general acceptance in most office environments, hesitation by management had limited “Work From Home” in many organizations. One of the lasting impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic may be the testing and validation of online collaboration tools for working from home. While it was noted that only about 30% of employees have rolls that allow them to work remotely, the poll results showed an overwhelming response to increased use of telecommuting after the pandemic. Comments by attendees backed the idea that most “Work from Home” employees had discovered many benefits (increased productivity and focus), and a few drawbacks (isolation and connectivity issues), of working remotely.
EHS professionals employ many methods for assuring regulations and policies are followed. Related to pandemic planning, respondents chose proactive compliance tasks as the preferred method of managing their pandemic planning. Conversation revolved around “back to work” policies as well as response plans for employees that test positive. For Dakota Software clients, template pandemic planning tasks and checklist questions are available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
While the past month has been hectic for EHS professionals there seemed to be some excitement among attendees that their Health & Safety initiatives are now receiving the attention from management that they deserve. Poll results showed that Management Systems / Administrative Control projects are being implemented or considered at the greatest rate. EHS Information Systems, like Dakota Software’s, were also ranked high by attendees as were engineering controls and automations.
While the long-term ramifications of the Coronavirus outbreak will not be well understood for some time, it’s clear that EHS professionals are taking decisive action to safeguard their employees and their businesses. As the situation evolves over the next few months, Dakota will be hosting more roundtable discussions and will share insights from those events.
UPDATE: On May 5th, 2020, Dakota hosted another roundtable webinar "EHS Management in a Post-COVID-19 World." Three panelists from Synagro, Petro Star, and PVS Chemicals shared their thoughts on topics including social distancing, evolving PPE usage, and what the “New Normal” could look like for EHS management. Watch the recording here.