Norfolk businesses leading the way on safe working

  • Panel Graphics, Loddon
  • Pasta Foods, Norwich & Great Yarmouth
  • Warren Services, Thetford

As the government starts easing lockdown, many business owners are considering what steps they need to take to ensure their premises are safe to return to.

Hear from three Norfolk Chambers member businesses have already been through that process and have been giving their insight into how they adapted their ways of working to ensure their staff were safe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panel Graphic, Loddon based engineering firm

Panel Graphic’s factory has been open throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period, producing more than 10,000 face shields each day for frontline workers.

Glenn Long, who has been managing logistics to produce face shields, shares the firm’s practical tips for operating safely.

The company implemented:

  • Staggered break times
  • Staggered start/finish times
  • A one-way system
  • Distancing floor graphics
  • Adding sanitising zones
  • PPE i.e. face shields
  • Social distancing
  • Workplace partitioning

He added: “As well as making our workplace safe for our staff, we’ve learnt a couple of valuable lessons during this period. Reliable suppliers have turned out to be key as many base materials are in short supply. We’ve also learnt that we have to embrace new market opportunities and act quickly.”

Warren Services, Thetford based engineering firm

Warren Services has introduced new shift patterns and embraced new technology to keep delivering for its customers through the COVID-19 lockdown.

Founder owner Richard Bridgman shares his advice on how to keep staff safe and well-informed.  He said:

“My first piece of advice to all companies is be positive rather than looking at why they cannot open, look at how to make it possible.

“From the start we at Warren Services were determined to stay open, we had a full order book. We discussed this with our customers, who told us that they still wanted their work on time and that they would adhere to agreed payment terms.

“So our next challenge was to look at how we work within Government guidelines and how we would keep our employees safe.

“Luckily we have been working hard on 4.0 and fully using IT, so we soon had the majority of the office staff working from home.

“Next, we divided the workforce in half and started two shifts : 6:00am – 2:00pm and 2:15pm – 10:15pm. This allows for all staff to leave before the others come in.

“We have opened all factory doors to make it easier for everyone to get in and out quickly, personal lockers are now spread about the factory or employees are encouraged to come to work in their overalls, bringing only the minimum amount of personal items in.

“Breaks are spread about more throughout the day and some take them in their cars. Social distancing rules always apply throughout the business. We have strict cleaning regimes in all areas and all machines and equipment are wiped down at the end of all shifts.

“We have had to adjust and tweak as we go along and the main thing is to use common sense.”

Pasta Foods, Norwich and Great Yarmouth based dried pasta manufacturer

Operations Director David Matwij shares the processes which the firm put in place to allow operations to continue during lockdown.  He said:

“We put together a list of activities which we implemented to not only keep our individual employees, safe, but to keep their families and partners safe as well.

“Behind those measures, we carry out weekly audits to cross check that all staff are adhering to our new policies and procedures and those are conducted by our Health, Safety and Environmental Officer.”

Some changes have been made to the physical space within the factories, including:

  • Signs were displayed in various entrance points across all three facilities
  • Additional hand sanitisation was installed in all entrances to the sites and factory processing areas
  • All staff were provided with ‘personal’ hand sanitisers to carry upon their person and these are refilled when required
  • Clear segregation barriers were installed within main office block entrances with clear instructions on our COVID-19 process
  • A strict two metre distancing rule was applied
  • Canteen tables and chairs were removed to allow two metre spacing within the area
  • Staff kitchen areas limited to one person use at a time

A number of changes to working practices were also made:

  • All applicable office staff and Directors commenced working from home and were provided with all of the necessary tools to be able to complete their task in full, from computers and printers to network connection availability
  • All employed personnel were provided with a letter indicating that they were a ‘key’ worker, inclusive of site and working hours
  • Document handling procedures with distribution partners were changed to prevent hand contact
  • Breaks were staggered to allow limited exposure to people in rest areas
  • Shift start/finish times were staggered to prevent staff congregating around clocking in/out machines to allow people flow
  • Regular updates were provided by Senior Management regarding our ‘Company position’ on COVID-19 and daily calls ensured new policies and processes were communicated to staff
  • Any member of staff within our Business who had possibly come into contact with somebody with COVID-19 symptoms were asked to self-isolate on full pay for seven days, followed by the increased isolation of fourteen days
  • Introduced the availability of temperature testing for staff as and when required.
  • All movements between manufacturing facilities required by Departmental Heads was ceased
  • All visitors were asked not to attend site unless it was Business Critical, and if deemed necessary, all corrective measures were enforced and followed Government legislation at all times
  • The company created a Government Log-in for COVID-19 test kits when these became available to speed up the process of testing

Government Guidelines for safe return to work

The UK government has provided guidance for businesses on working safely during Coronavirus - click here for the full details.

PPE Database

During the pandemic, New Anglia LEP created a database for local PPE suppliers – initially solely for supplying the NHS and the care sector.  This database is currently being updated to include ‘back to work’ items, like sneeze screens, sanitiser stations, signage and public realm furniture.  If your firm would like to access this database, please register for a login.

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