Behind-the-scenes: COVID-19 response

Learn about how we rolled out our Emergency Management Plan to maintain essential services

Learning

June 29, 2020

Highlights

Initially we started by using our traditional methods of communication such as tool box meetings, but realised very early on that having large numbers of people in a small room wasn’t going to make the requirements of social distancing.

Tags: COVID-19
Highlights

Initially we started by using our traditional methods of communication such as tool box meetings, but realised very early on that having large numbers of people in a small room wasn’t going to make the requirements of social distancing.

Cleanaway’s COVID-19 response with Rachel Irvine-Marshall (RIM), Head of Health and Safety and Regulatory Compliance and Samantha Shaw (SS), Head of Audit and Risk.

SS: Hi I’m Samantha Shaw and I’m the Head of Audit and Risk at Cleanaway and I’ve been here for two and a half years and I’d like to introduce you, at an appropriate social distance of course, to my colleague.

RIM: Hi, I’m Rachel Irvine-Marshall, and I’m Cleanaway’s Head of Health and Safety and Regulatory Compliance and I’ve been with the organisation for 13 years.

Building Cleanaway’s Emergency Response Plan

RIM: The first I heard of COVID-19 was through the media, and we started very early on getting queries through the safety team from both employees and customers, and Sam and I would have many conversations around how we’re going to start to respond to our employees.

SS: The primary conversation Rachel and I were having was maintaining the safety of our staff. Obviously that was coming through very strongly from the safety team, and as it arrived in Australia, the queries started to continue. At that point in early March where there had been one fatality in Australia, I think at that time there were 33 confirmed cases, we agreed we with Michael Bock and Jo Birgersson that we need to form a response team to deal with the queries and make sure that we had a consistent approach for our staff, for our customers. At that point we brought in HR as well, and we formed a regular team where we met on a daily basis.

SS: The first thing that we really needed to do was to develop our emergency management plan for a pandemic. It wasn’t something that we had in place, so we really needed to start that from scratch.
And the paramount consideration was protecting the safety of our employees.

So the emergency management plan really came together, it was quite fluid because things were changing very quickly. What we initially did was we structured our daily discussions around what the recent government advice was saying, how we were seeing our staff and employees impacted, how our customers were being impacted – so what information is coming through from our customers. We were looking at HR impacts, comms strategy, that was a critical piece of what we did, and we were also looking ensuring we were prepared from a safety perspective. And Rachel perhaps you could go more into detail into the safety piece.

RIM: From a safety perspective early on from our health business, we engaged an infection control specialist who really guided us through the additional controls we needed to continue providing our essential services. So we were able to look at things like how do I clean my truck, what happens if I had to have two people in a truck to deliver driver assessment, how do I conduct meetings or should I still have visitors come to the office. So we were able to use and work through the government’s advice and how we apply that through all Cleanaway tasks, and then harness our existing systems to build those controls.

SS: The next stage is to implement the emergency management plan and across the business. Obviously that requires the collaboration across all our business units so we worked closely with general managers, regional managers, safety teams and the HR team. My team, the internal audit team, was repurposed and taken off all internal audit and put on the COVID response plan to help businesses prepare their business continuity plans.

Every branch has their own business continuity plan, but none of those plans really address the issues of the pandemic. So we helped the business by running workshops to identify all the risks and thinking they need to put in place in terms of responding to a pandemic.

When we ran the workshops, we found that the business was already thinking about how they would respond and minimise the risks. That was fantastic – they had already done an awesome job so our role was around sharing our knowledge and ideas across all the different strategic business units.

Overcoming safety and communication challenges

RIM: One of the biggest challenges from a health and safety perspective was making sure that we secured the right PPE that we needed for the business, and that we were able to secure hygiene products such as hand sanitisers. And that really was a great challenge because supplies that come internationally became scarce in Australia.

A lot of those products were used in the healthcare industry where you’d expect to be prioritised but that meant that many of our shipments were diverted and that placed pressure on our current supplies. So the business was impacted when we were unable to get those supplies, just our normal PPE so things such as P2 dust masks that we use in our transfer stations, landfills and other dusty environments, if we were unable to secure the stocks, we would have to close those facilities.

SS: The most challenging part about the process for me, I’d say, was two-fold. One was the fluidity of the issue we were dealing with. When everyone talks about it being an unprecedented event, and it certainly is, so something that none of us have dealt with before, so we needed to move fast and respond fast. And that leads me to the second biggest challenge, and that’s around communications because it’s so important for us to communicate to our staff and contractors as well, so having clear communications to everybody was a challenge because not everybody has email and portal access. So we need to make sure that our comms got to everybody.

RIM: Initially we started by using our traditional methods of communication such as tool box meetings, but realised very early on that having large numbers of people in a small room wasn’t going to make the requirements of social distancing.

SS: We developed a query line and email where everyone can send in their queries and we used that as our FAQs that we answered and updated on a daily basis. That was all printed out and sent to each of the sites every day so that people could keep up to speed with the messages that we were sending out. And really that was the response to the questions that were coming in from across the business. The other thing we did was using our text messages, and that’s another way to ensure that the FAQs have been updated and that there was new information for everyone to look at.

What’s next?

RIM: So what comes next? We’ve now started to move into planning, before bringing everyone back to work.

SS: I think the important thing here is that we will continue to follow the guidance of the Australian government and health officials and whilst we have seen the numbers have started to reduce, we are starting to plan to return to work.

Learn more about Cleanaway’s Emergency Response Plan and COVID-19 response here.