H. Essers is a logistics service provider with more than 6,560 employees across 73 branches in 17 countries across Europe. The company is one of Ansell’s valued logistics partners and an “essential business” that has continued operations over the past several months during COVID-19 related shutdowns. We recently sat down with Operations Manager Steven Bollen to discuss what lessons the company has learned during this global health crisis.
How have your warehouse operations changed because of the pandemic?
We have updated our practices and safety protocols to mitigate potential risks associated with coronavirus exposure. Fortunately, H. Essers has a holistic approach to management that enables us to adapt to change quickly without sacrificing the efficacy of our operations, even during crisis like the one we are facing today. We continuously strive to maintain expected service levels and run the business as usual. When it comes to safety, our managers are following normal safety protocols and using our existing risk assessment strategies to identify any new virus related hazards. Fortunately, there is no known increased risk of virus exposure for people handling freight from specific areas or countries. We are therefore following general EU-OSHA guidance around worker safety during the pandemic.
What measures have you taken to better protect employees?
We closely follow the guidance issued by the EU and the governments of the local countries where we operate, but because the safety of our employees and customers is our top priority, we have also introduced many other additional safety measures.
- We closely monitor information about the spread of coronavirus across the regions where we operate and changes in guidance by health and government authorities. We regularly communicate this information to our employees and operations teams.
- We have implemented new social distancing rules in our buildings and are conducting temperature checks at our warehouse entrances. We have promoted through trainings and posted signs across all facilities about more frequent hand washing and hygiene routines.
- Our managers have been instructed to operate in accordance with the strictest EU-OSHA protocols and cooperate with all government health authorities to help reduce the risk of virus exposure and transmission to the public.
What role has personal protection equipment (PPE) played in helping you protect your employees?
Safety is our top priority, so H. Essers continuously monitors our workers’ environments to identify hazards that may require the use of PPE, and our managers take steps to ensure PPE is properly worn by workers and maintained. This is no different now, during the coronavirus pandemic. In accordance with EU-OSHA guidance, we have organized spaces to ensure employees can work at a safe social distance from one another. When and where this is not possible, we have provided them with additional PPE such as masks and gloves, as well as hand sanitizer, to reduce the risk of virus exposure.
How have you continued to motivate your teams to focus at work during the pandemic?
First, we believe that when employees feel safe, they do their best work. We make sure that our people can do their jobs safely by enforcing social distancing rules across our facilities, promoting hand hygiene, and ensuring they have the appropriate PPE. Second, knowledge is key. We have held several training webinars to educate personnel on how to correctly deal with coronavirus related challenges both at home and at work. Second, we validate our people and the work they do by showing that their managers and their customers appreciate their efforts. An internal webpage has been created to share the many ‘thank you’ messages we have received from our customers during this crisis. We have also launched a social media campaign that highlights individual employees, because we believe they are true “heroes” worth recognizing.
What final advice do you have for Ansell distributor partners who are implementing new safety protocols for their own warehouse and logistics workers?
I would encourage people to remember that guidelines around coronavirus are continuously changing, so we cannot simply implement new safety protocols and then forget about them. Day in, day out, I’m talking to managers about what’s happening with their teams and how things are going. I try to understand where they’re having challenges, and what ideas they have on things we could improve. At the end of the day, warehouse and logistics managers need to stay close to workers on the ground so we are able to quickly identify gaps in safety management plans and how to best address them.