Safety First

As of this writing, businesses across the country are slowly starting to re-open. Although the hardwood lumber industry has been operating as an essential business during this pandemic, most of us have had to change our office staffing, enabled remote workforces ,and instituted proper social distancing techniques that altered employee interaction and production.

As a result of recent unprecedented events, no one has a foolproof blueprint for how to go about the process of trying to return to the way things were.  Maybe we never will. But as America tries to reopen we need to do it with the safety our employees front and center. Safety

For Baillie Lumber, maintaining employee and customer safety is our highest priority. In doing so, we have found ourselves focusing on a few key areas to help with the process. Perhaps some are areas of focus are ideas you are considering for your business: 

Implement an “accountability policy.” 

Your business has a responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for all involved. At the same time, it may be wise to let employees know that they, too, are responsible for following preventive measures that protect both themselves and their co-workers. As part of the re-entry process, let employees know they are expected to fully comply with accepted procedures, such as completing a daily self-assessment, wearing masks as required and practicing social distancing at all times. 

Keep aspects of work-from-home in place. 

Like others who manufacturer hardwood lumber, we adopted a remote worker approach for most of our office personnel. In many cases, what we found to be not just appropriate, but an efficient way to proceed in the future. For many employees, it created enhanced focus and commitment to their job. For that we are thankful. So perhaps a best practice could be to not rush to “repopulate” the workplace ASAP. Rather, look at where some employees can continue to work remotely—thus, reducing the risks to those coming to work—and see if these measures can be extended into the indefinite future.  

Re-examine the configuration of your workplace. 

All facets of business are being re-examined in light of recent events. Not only our sawmills and dry line operations but our lumber receiving desks and office locations. Now maybe a good time to re-examine the layout of all your workplace operations. Think about what can be done to protect both employees, suppliers, and customers. Can individual workstations be placed farther apart? What can you do to protect your reception/lobby area? Keep an open mind in this area and solicit suggestions from employees who work there every day. 

Take an aggressive approach to cleanliness. 

As an operating business, it’s likely your team already does a good job of maintaining a clean work environment. But there’s now a strong need to ratchet up these efforts. Strict hygiene and cleaning policies should apply to all areas, including breakrooms, conference rooms, and other common areas. 

Also, think about “installing hand sanitizer dispensers at more highly trafficked places like elevators and doorways or near printers or other shared equipment,” notes Nolo. Surfaces that are touched by employees or customers such as “doorknobs, elevator buttons, and handrails should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.” 

When it comes to safeguarding people’s health, there’s no such thing as being too cautious. 

Urge managers and senior executives to monitor the workplace. 

The Harvard Business Review suggests that business owners implement “daily fire drills” to enforce new safety guidelines. Take a walk through all parts of the workplace often to determine how well employees are complying with these measures. 

“Leaders must walk all employees through the motions of each new safety behavior,” HBR notes, “because they remind employees of how important the behaviors are.”  

Build on the relationship you have with your team

As we’ve noted before, the most crucial element of any effective workplace environment is trust. This is never more important than right now, as people return to work. A culture built on trust “includes listening to what employees have to say and inviting them to offer constructive criticism and new ideas” with respect to the “new normal.” Chances are, your employees will have some helpful suggestions on how to achieve the goal of a successful return to business that protects everyone (including customers).  

The hardwood lumber industry has faced big challenges in the past. With everyone working together, there’s no reason we can’t bounce back from this latest crisis and emerge stronger than ever before. Let’s do it together!   

What other thoughts do you have? Let us know. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

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