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Agility and Adaptability Through EHS Solutions

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Author Photo
Jonathan Dempsey MBA
Director of Red Laces Consultancy | Guest EHS Content Writer
Published On
November 11, 2020
Category
BLOG

Maintaining Perspective

“Keep Calm and Carry On” is a popular phrase locked into the psyche of many British people. Created by the UK Government 80 years ago, it was designed to motivate the nation ahead of World War II.

Let’s take a deep breath. Take a moment. Pause.

The resonance today is that by keeping calm, we can think more rationally and maintain a sense of perspective. In the face of rapidly changing and increasingly challenging circumstances, the ability of business leaders and EHS professionals to prioritise and make informed decisions on the use of scarce resources is imperative. This requires strategic, holistic, collaborative and risk-based approaches based on sound business intelligence. Action with a focus on customers, employees, supply chains and other stakeholders.

From Fear to Confidence

All too often, a sense of being overwhelmed grips businesses balancing the need to ‘be safe,’ add value to customers and deliver profits. There’s environment, health and safety, fire safety, security, incident management, audits and more. With legislation, standards and risks to be factored in, there’s often too much. It’s too complex. It creates fear.

Fear of not doing the right thing. Not being able to manage ‘the paperwork.’ What if an inspector turns up (unannounced)? We can be so busy (doing more) that we lose sight of a sound frame of reference, a True North. Reacting rather than responding.

Are We Legal?

This is often grouped together under ‘safety’ and understood in simplistic binary terms. It leads to transactional focus on compliance. Are we legal? Are we safe? Management systems are operated by professional teams of ‘experts’ in compliance-based functions and certificates from accredited schemes in Reception may provide some degree of comfort. However, they can encourage the status quo, to be consistent, create order and exercise control. As a result, they may be perceived as a constraint on business activity and a necessary cost, at best. In a crisis situation, inflexible, a constraint on thinking rather than tool to unlock creative and responsive solutions.

The reality for many businesses has been the immediate and unplanned shift to EHS Teams working from home. This places a critical reliance on timely and accurate data captured on site by a layperson. An intuitive and agile software solution would enable larger sections of the workforce remaining on site to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the EHS Team. A solution which encourages frontline teams to report defects, incidents and access information.  

Build Insight Through Innovative Technology

In 2020, Covid-19 has clearly demonstrated that agility and adaptability, even to pivot an entire business operation, are now imperative. Fundamental to this is the need for a deeper understanding of your operational and environmental, health and safety risks. Building this insight through innovative technology based on user-friendly, advanced software solutions will enable you to rapidly scale organisational learning to align strategy with risk and sharpen resilience.  

This is where the AVA product offers unrivalled value, using artificial intelligence, graph database and social media integration. Helping your business to strategically plan, forecast, anticipate and respond, with the assurance that strong governance underpins effective risk management. Innovative solutions that involve and engage your people!

Keeping the Country Moving - Logistics

Exponential growth in E-commerce over recent years is creating more dynamic and fluid operating environments, especially from October through to early January. Peaks in demand for additional short-term labour supply, vehicle hire and associated soft facilities mean that businesses which fail to plan early enough, with the best business intelligence, can be left with insufficient resources to operate safely or competitively.

The ‘war for talent’ challenges Tier 1 and Tier 2 agency recruitment teams to meet demand for pickers and packers. While rates of remuneration for temporary employees usually dictates that they are drawn from local catchment areas which are quickly exhausted. Induction training and providing sufficient support for new employees is very important. Many agency employees will be unfamiliar with the working environment and need to feel valued as part of the team. Otherwise, beyond EHS risks, it may lead to high attrition levels which increase recruitment and operational pressures and damage local reputation as an ‘employer of choice.’

Sudden spikes in product volumes may create an operational imperative to deploy at short notice, vehicles which fail to meet the company specifications. Reactive decision-making on vehicle rentals by a Procurement or Fleet Team may overlook site-specific variations in requirements for physical loading and unloading operations across a network. Dock levellers, double-deck trailers, curtain-sided trailers, availability of fork-lift trucks and drivers can all create complexity and increase safety risks.

So, at this time of year:

  • What are the normal considerations?
  • How does Autumn/Winter 2020 differ due to Covid-19?
  • How is your EHS Management System helping you?

Considerations in Autumn and Winter

From October, not only does it become dark much earlier, the change from day to night is more sudden. We use lights on our private vehicles more frequently and for longer periods. External lighting across business premises becomes more important, especially in the yards of logistics and other businesses where there is a mix of pedestrians, forklift trucks and large vehicles. With inadequate maintenance, inspections, training and defect reporting this can be fatal. Workplace transport is the main cause of fatality and major injury in UK logistics businesses. How can technology assist with inspections and audits?

Roads are cold and wet for longer periods, compounded by the risk of snow and ice. So, condition of tyres on private, fleet and commercial vehicles becomes more critical together with driver eyesight (in low light levels). Hazardous winter weather poses issues for activities in the yard as well as internally inside buildings. Melting snow and driving rain into a warehouse through open shutters, in the absence of suitable controls, will increase risk of slips and falls e.g. from a loading bay.

In peak months, the workforce is largest and most diverse. It places a greater strain on soft facilities management (cleaning, catering areas, waste management). A complex mix of permanent and agency employees, the balance shifts heavily towards agency and the ratio of Supervisors to employees can fall substantially.

This can quickly impact the cultural norms of what the business promotes through its values and training, in favour of “do what you see others do.” For example, unauthorised access to automated machinery to clear a blockage. Supervision is vital to ensure that site-specific risk assessments and training are effective. With such a transient workforce the risk of employees being present under the effects of drugs and alcohol also increases.

How easy is it for temporary staff to ask for assistance, information or report an incident? Do they have to find a pen and a form? Where does manual handling and ergonomics feature in a rush to ensure that a trailer is loaded to hit a 2am departure deadline? Lone working and personal security risks can also become greater together with feelings of isolation.

Risk management should address impacts on self-employed delivery drivers. Increased volume of parcels to deliver, additional shifts, possible route variations, changes in their signed-for parcels (e.g. photographs now being taken of the parcel at the door) combined with adverse winter weather driving conditions increase fatigue for them and their vehicle. In addition to their health, safety and mental wellbeing, they are the face of the brand which the public see.

The Differences in Autumn/Winter 2020 due to Covid-19

The Macroenvironment

We are several months in from an overnight shift to ‘mass’ home-working. A greater proportion of senior leaders and managers are now at home instead of the Board Room or site offices and many support teams have become fragmented by remoteness. Leaders are less visible. There is a lack of human interaction. Many technophobic employees are being coerced into unfamiliar use of technology (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams). There are a lack of norms, boundaries, routines or expectations for levels of productivity.

The benefits of ending the endless hours of ‘office commute’ was replaced by many with the need for home-schooling. The increasingly sedentary nature of forced lockdown and fewer reasons to leave home has meant that lack of exercise, linked with changes to diet and fears surrounding financial security has compounded pressures on mental health for large sections of the population.

Whilst positively, mental health is much less taboo and coverage has increased in the media, is there a need for employers to do more to help employees combat isolation, (re)develop team bonding, proactively reward, recognise and celebrate?

Mass consumption of rolling news stories and social media can be informative. However, they potentially generate more fear and uncertainty for many employees. Leaders need to give new meaning to the organisation’s values and be proactive in translating proposed or actual changes into “what does it mean for me?”

Many people have felt less ‘safe’ being in public spaces including shopping centres because of the risk of infection from Covid-19, driving greater online sales. The latest nationwide lockdown will only heighten demand for online orders in the absence of the annual Christmas shopping on the high street.

As we venture deeper into Autumn, job uncertainty with furlough schemes, fear of redundancy and rising unemployment, are likely to be compounded further by the unknown implications of Brexit from January 1st, 2021.

The Business and Premises

What we see commonly amongst “Covid-secure” controls in the gyms, coffee shops, restaurants and elsewhere are social distancing, wearing masks, signage, one-way routes, temporary structures and more.

What we may not see and may not exist is executive-level EHS Strategy response, the amended Annual EHS Plan, the Covid-secure controls clearly flowing from risk-based frameworks, a revised Health and Safety Policy, Fire Safety Risk Assessments, revised evacuation procedures and more. Not just a tick box response which renders EHS frameworks obsolete. Where is your business intelligence quickly adding value to this and measuring the effectiveness of controls?

Significant challenges for transport and logistics businesses this Autumn are planned, preventive maintenance (PPM) that would normally have taken place during non-peak months and mandatory EHS training. With productivity levels remaining exceptionally high throughout most of 2020, opportunities will have reduced which may adversely impact resilience throughout the season.

Your People

Your employees, customers, supply chain and other stakeholders are all facing uncertainty as a result of Covid-19. To live your values and promote the value that you bring as an employer and client, your strategic, holistic, collaborative and risk-based approaches, based on the best business intelligence, provides for the agility and adaptability which is now a prerequisite.  

Take every opportunity to involve your people!

It’s a great opportunity for leaders to bring corporate values to life and give them meaning. To build confidence, demonstrate care and increase commitment. For instance, high performing agency employees are often recruited into permanent roles and could become future leaders. They can also be your customers. Your brand ambassadors.  

How is Your EHS Management System Helping You?

EHS management systems have always had to contend with a wide range of complexity across multisite or multi-country operations. Many businesses have developed standalone, insular EHS systems and software incrementally which may no longer be supported by the IT Departments. Challenges of data entry, collection, analysis and interpretation can lead to inaccurate and untimely use of information which struggles to make an impact on strategic decision making.

The value of a single-code based, SaaS solution is strategic visibility and simple configuration combined with availability across the whole of a multisite company. Artificial intelligence capabilities and intuitive, social media integration facilitate increased user engagement and customisable, branded dashboards. Now is the time to explore a more agile software solution for your business. One which can align strategic decision making with risk management and build resilience.

More about the Author

Jonathan Dempsey MBA CMCIEH CEnvH CMIOSH FIIRSM

Owner of Red Laces Consultancy.

Jonathan, in 2020, was recognised as one of the Global Top 10 Safety Influencers following his engaging and passionate delivery on all things to do with safety. With over 25 years EHS experience, Jonathan brings insight, perspective and understanding to a far wider EHS audience with key subject matter content on risk, health and safety and sustainability.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Dempsey MBA

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