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Crisis management and employee health

and |  May 21, 2020

Editor’s Note: The following is Part IV of a special series from Pest Management Professional Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Faith Oi, a faculty member and director of Pest Management University at the University of Florida, and Kemp Anderson, principal of Kemp Anderson Consulting. The series is appearing on a number of industry platforms, including KempAnderson.com. For our continuing coverage of this series, click here.

One of the challenges when consuming news and recommendations is to confront our own confirmation bias. “Confirmation bias” simply means that we seek out news and information that supports our existing beliefs. This is especially challenging when there’s an overwhelming amount of information being pushed out, and a lack of consensus about how to interpret that information. The following section contains lessons in crisis management learned from the Harvard Business Review, which we found to be applicable in any crisis situation, not just the COVID-19 pandemic.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT—PERSONAL PLAN

  • Update intelligence on a daily basis. Do your best to keep up with emerging information from credible new sources produced by investigative journalists.
  • Consume balanced news, and do your best to stay on top of things regarding COVID-19, healthcare and economics. Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 website is one of many great sources.
  • Do not believe everything you read or hear. Fact check everything you can at this critical time. We can all certainly form our own opinions; however, we do not get to form our own individual facts.
  • Use experts and forecasts carefully. Making sure you are getting sound facts from sound sources has never been more important. Remember, garbage in will push garbage out.
  • Constantly reframe your understanding of what’s happening. If you get too behind in today’s events, it will be very difficult to catch up.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT FOR YOUR BUSINESS

  • Keep your business streamlined as much as possible and beware of internal and external bureaucracy. Besides being maddening, it wastes a massive amount of time.
  • Make sure your response is balanced across these “seven dimensions”:
  1. Communications, both internally and externally.
  2. Employee needs. Remember, our employees are the front lines serving our customers and how we respond to our employees is critical.
  3. Travel. At this point in the COVID-19 crisis, travel should only be done when necessary.
  4. Remote work. If the company has the ability to allow administrative or other employees in roles that are not front-line to work remote, you should consider doing so.
  5. Being part of a broader solution. Keep in mind that we are deemed an “essential service,” so wherever possible we should help the community while putting safety first.
  6. Business tracking and forecasting is critical and, as mentioned, we should not take our eye off the ball regarding the finances of our business. Track and forecast everything possible, from employee and customer retention, to health and safety, and overall environmental issues.
  7. Supply chain stabilization is critical at this time, particularly in regard to employee personal protective equipment (PPE). In business and finance, supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources that are involved in moving a service from the service supplier (you as the pest control company) to the customers. For example, if one supplier is having problems that could damage your ability to serve the customer, make sure you have an alternate supplier.
  • Use resilience principles in developing policies. This effectively is the capacity of a system to deal with change and continue to develop. Now more than ever we must remain nimble and resilient as leaders of our businesses and of our industry.
  • Prepare now for the next crisis. This may seem like a crazy thought given we’re currently in a crisis that we are trying to deal with; however, we need to know and understand we will get out of this crisis, but we will probably never be crisis free. There is the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 in the absence of a vaccine or cure. Let’s work together to get out of this one, while looking down the road at what may be next.
  • Intellectual preparation is not enough; we cannot lose the vision of our industry being people and health-centric.
  • Reflect on what you’ve learned. Maybe you can keep a journal or notes. The current situation is evolving so fast it will be easy to lose sight of some of the things we are learning. Try not to let that happen.
  • Prepare for a changed world. We really don’t know what the world will look like in the months and years to come; however, things will be different for most of us. Not necessarily better or worse, just different, and it’s OK to acknowledge that.

TEAM HEALTH AND TRAINING

Training employees is a critical subject in normal times, and especially today in the current COVID-19 environment. Changing behaviors can be a challenge. “New” training elements might also include:

  • How to isolate individuals that are suspected or confirmed with the virus.
  • How to report cases.
  • How to use the appropriate PPE.

The questions of “what is appropriate PPE” and “what constitutes worker protection” will change.  We have always trained to use PPE “according to the label.” What factors should be considered in PPE selection now? According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Employers are obligated to provide their workers with PPE needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs. The types of PPE required during a COVID-19 outbreak will be based on the risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 while working and job tasks that may lead to exposure.” What PPE will be necessary at various stops during the day? OSHA advises that PPE must be “selected based on the hazard to the worker.” Additionally, PPE must be

  • Properly fitted and periodically refitted, as applicable (e.g., respirators).
  • Consistently and properly worn when required.
  • Regularly inspected, maintained and replaced, as necessary.
  • Properly removed, cleaned and stored or disposed of, as applicable, to avoid contamination of self, others or the environment.

Critically, all employees should understand the limitations of the equipment and how it all works together to protect them as well as the customer. We may need to train employees how to recognize the difference between potentially contaminated areas versus clean areas, both at work and in field operations, when and where to put on and remove PPE, specifics on how to handle PPE when not being worn, how to safely handle and dispose of potentially infected materials and PPE, and again how to properly clean, disinfect, and maintain this new equipment. Please remember, there are OSHA training and reference materials online if you need the added support. OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page is a starting point. This page includes guidance on state plans.

As we look at control and prevention of COVID-19, we should consider measures for protecting our workers from exposure to and infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. All employers in our industry should consider writing and implementing infection control strategies, including administrative company controls, safe work practices, and required personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent worker exposure, ensure customer safety, and manage corporate liability.

Some OSHA standards may already apply to preventing occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and there is a high likelihood OSHA will want documentation that employers have educated and trained workers regarding the virus including PPE. OSHA requires COVID-19 cases be reported on the OSHA 300 log if COVID-19 is confirmed, was work-related, and the “case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid, days away from work).”

Partnering with appropriate attorneys, and potentially human resources staffers or consultants is suggested. OSHA has already developed “interim guidance” to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19 that can be used to guide new company policies.

Safety should be top of mind at the start of every day, at every stop. Please equip for safety, train for safety, and practice safe service.

 

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