Resources and guidance for supporting employees, customers, and partners during this unprecedented health crisis.

  • December 14, 2020

10 questions to ask about health and safety

Guest Author
This is a syndicated post, view the original post here

By Jean-Pierre Salgado, Head of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), Oracle

It’s often said that your employees are your greatest asset. This truth is amplified during times of crisis, like the global pandemic we’re experiencing now. Without the health, safety, and ultimately, the trust of your employees, it’s extremely difficult to maintain business continuity when a severe incident occurs—let alone deliver for customers and operate day-after-day as a high-functioning business.

As the head of global environment, health and safety (EHS) at Oracle for over a decade, I can honestly say that this year has been the most challenging of my career; but at the same time, it has also been one of the most rewarding. Given the circumstances, my team and I have been honored to drive Oracle’s global health and safety program—from the command center to the front lines—coordinating with my colleagues around the world to help ensure that our employees are safe, our workplaces are COVID-free, and our customers and employees can count on us through thick and thin.

While every business and its employees' needs vary, I want to share some of the learnings and best practices that we applied at Oracle, in the hope that you might find them valuable for your business as we all continue to navigate an uncertain landscape.

Health and safety in the workplace and workforce

First, to evaluate if your business is up to the challenge, I recommend looking at your workplace and your workforce. These are the two major aspects of health and safety that could be impacted during a disruptive event, such as the current pandemic.

Reduced availability of your people or workplaces can lead to numerous disruptions and incidents that can subsequently lead to even greater issues—ultimately exposing systematic weakness and operational failures for your organization, including the following:

  • Disruption to essential operations. When there is a positive case of COVID-19, is your business able to keep other employees safe and minimize disruption to your core business operations? For example, you can take steps to test employees at the impacted worksite, have the necessary supplies to decontaminate the work area before resuming operations, and establish new protocols like mask wearing, new occupancy rules, and physical distancing measures to keep your existing employees healthy and safe.
  • Reputational damage for preventable outbreaks. By taking proactive steps to minimize the chance of outbreaks, companies can also avoid loss of trust and reputational damage caused by media coverage, social media, and the lasting negative perception that can be made about a company’s inadequate response to an incident involving its employees.
  • Duty of care obligations and legal liability. Most countries require employers to offer reasonable standards of care. With the pandemic due to the novel coronavirus, what is your duty of care for employees and your workplace(s)? Does this include providing timely information and proactive notifications to your worksites, having adequate inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, being able to execute your business continuity plan, or is there more?
  • Lack of preparedness for the next phase of this crisis. When businesses, offices and plants do open up, there may very well be an ongoing contagion risk of spread through people-to-people interactions, surfaces, and internal airflow. You don’t want to be unprepared for future disruption. Now is the time to identify and expose systematic operational weaknesses and points of failures—while building resiliency to prepare for the next phase, along with future health and safety risk factors.

Assessing your level of readiness and resilience

To assess your current organizational readiness and resilience, ask yourself and your team these questions to optimize health and safety for your business:

  1. What are the key health and safety goals and requirements to optimize for within your business?
  2. What’s your ability to protect your employees and assets to maintain continuity (e.g., work from home, appropriate training to use PPE)?
  3. Do you have the right protocols in place?
  4. Do you have a process for, and the ability to, monitor and collect data to prioritize and respond appropriately?
  5. Have you procured and built sufficient inventory of PPE for all your locations?
  6. Have you trained employees in the proper use of PPE?
  7. Do you have a process to efficiently deploy resources to decontaminate offices?
  8. Do you have the right procedures for different work environments (e.g. offices vs. manufacturing plants vs. data centers)?
  9. Have you addressed physical distancing protocols (mandated either by governments or by industry best practices) and their implications to workspaces and workforce interactions (e.g. is there an appointment or reservation system to manage proper capacity in the workplace, etc.)?
  10. Have you addressed work-from-home impact and implications to employees (e.g. are you able to provide ergonomic set-up and support for employees)?

Best practices and learnings

After evaluating and addressing your readiness based on the questions above, you can establish report and response capabilities for health and safety within your company.

Reporting health and safety concerns

The adage that “what gets measured, gets done” is applicable here. Be sure to monitor, report, and provide access to accurate, timely health and safety data. Understanding this data helps you to prioritize what’s most important, engage incident managers appropriately for rapid assessment, and best serve your employees.

Responding to reported incidents

In the response phase, when an incident does occur, it’s important to engage the right subject matter experts (SMEs) to assess the severity and initial impact of an incident. These experts can include IT, HR, facilities, security, or legal personnel who can respond individually or as a team in a timely manner.

Where to go from here

Within Oracle, we use Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM to streamline and automate the collection of, and response to, health and safety incidents.

Oracle Cloud HCM provides a systematic approach toward triage and engagement of SMEs. The system collects all the necessary information and centralizes this data, allowing key information to be directed to SMEs and relevant stakeholders, as well as delegates. This also allows for accurate, real-time reporting through dashboards to ensure proper case investigation, mitigation and closure.

For Oracle HCM customers, this application is available to you. If you use it, you’ll be joining a growing list of companies—like both Oracle and Bimeda.

Bimeda develops and manufactures medications at facilities in seven countries and has been able to let about one-third of their employees work at home. The other two-thirds of employees in critical research and manufacturing facilities must report to their worksites as usual. Several months ago, the company formed a task force to oversee Bimeda’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. They realized that health and safety incidents were being reported and tracked in a spreadsheet, which left Bimeda unable to investigate or respond at scale. They quickly eliminated that roadblock by using Oracle Cloud HCM, avoiding immense disruption.

If you want to deploy health and safety capabilities within your organization, we’ve built a blueprint that provides step-by-step instructions for getting this in place. In addition, we have subject matter experts who are ready to support your roll-out using this blueprint.

Want to learn more? Watch the full Oracle webcast.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Salgado and his team are responsible for leading EHS programs for over a decade across all Oracle global business units through program development and integration for: health and safety, EHS auditing, facility environmental management, operational excellence, product environmental management (for Oracle-branded electronic products) and EHS training.

JP also serves as chairperson of an industry-leading, peer-to-peer group of datacenter safety professionals and he is the global business unit coordinator of the risk management and resiliency program (RMRP) for real estate and facilities.

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