COVID-19: EPC-UK devise ‘safe working practice’ plan
Employees able to return to work with confidence thanks to comprehensive safety strategy
AS the industry begins to get back to a ‘new normal’, drilling and blasting services specialists EPC-UK have devised a comprehensive ‘safe working practice’ plan to ensure the safety of their employees on their return to work, whilst also maintaining the quality of service their customers expect.
These working practices have already been tried and tested as, despite an inevitable decline in activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, several EPC-UK customers have continued to operate.
By reacting quickly and implementing meticulous safe working guidelines, EPC-UK have been able to provide the service required, as Ben Williams, managing director of EPC-UK, explained: ‘By adopting a ‘complete compliance’ operational approach regarding social distancing and safe working practices from the outset, we have been able to continue supporting our customers throughout the pandemic.
‘From virtual signing in and out, a ‘one person, one vehicle’ rule, and social-distanced on-site briefings, to one-way systems in our offices and Perspex screens in reception areas, we have adopted a number of working procedures to keep both our employees and customers safe. We have also been liaising with customers to ensure our new working protocols complement their own.’
One such customer is CEMEX. ‘At the beginning of the pandemic, EPC-UK contacted us to discuss the needs of our business, so suitable arrangements could be made for our operations to continue,’ explained Dave Goodman, aggregate area operations manager at CEMEX.
‘Following that initial discussion, a communications platform was established so everyone involved could be kept up to speed with daily events. We also had regular telephone discussions throughout the pandemic to review performance and discuss any required modifications.’
Mr Goodman continued: ‘EPC-UK have adopted many changes within their operations to ensure our needs and safety requirements are being met in a professional manner. All procedures introduced by EPC-UK go above and beyond government guidance and are aligned to our own COVID-19 protocols, which has made our working relationship smoother and stronger.’
In addition to maintaining customer relationships, EPC-UK have also been ensuring their employees, several of whom have been furloughed, have still felt part of the team whilst being away from the working environment.
‘For many employees, furloughing is a completely new concept and can cause anxiety about future job security,’ explained Mr Williams. ‘We have worked hard to ensure all our employees clearly understand the situation and the reasonings behind any decision made. Effective internal communication and transparency have been key to maintaining successful relationships between management and their team.’
Wayne Evans and Max Hembroke are two such employees. Mr Evans is a Multiblend operator who has worked at EPC-UK for 26 years. Due to the nature of his job, which sees him travelling the country to various customer sites, he was initially furloughed to meet government requirements for safety.
‘It has been an anxious and uncertain time for many of us. However, EPC-UK’s management of the situation has gone a long way to alleviating any worry. The company has been fantastic during my furlough period, keeping me informed throughout, and as we move towards getting back to work, I have been kept up to date on the various safety procedures being put in place to keep me, and my colleagues, safe. As such, I will have no qualms in returning to work.’
Max Hembroke has been with EPC-UK for eight years and currently works as a relief area supervisor. He said: ‘I was upset when I heard I was being furloughed, as my first thought was that I was no longer required. However, thanks to the initial phone call from EPC-UK management, who answered my questions and concerns, I realized it was necessary for the company and not a reflection of my work.
‘Everything was explained clearly and the fact that the company increased the government allowance of 80% to 100% of my average wage for last year, was an amazing gesture and really eased my worries while being off work.
‘I was so glad when I got the call to return to work. However, I did have misgivings over whether it would be safe to return. I was invited to attend a Microsoft Teams meeting for ‘Returning to Work’, where I had input into risk assessments that had been developed to keep me safe.
‘There were also good-practice videos and guidance from industry, and I felt the company had given me confidence to speak up if I did not feel confident in returning. They even checked I had all my PPE, that my truck was in good order and all appropriate cleaning and sanitizing equipment was readily available. They wouldn’t let me start without it!
‘I’m now back at work and operating safely wherever I go. The quarries I work in have been fully briefed on our measures and social distancing rules, and I feel confident to proceed in my role whilst remaining safe.’
Ben Williams concluded: ‘I am extremely proud of the EPC-UK team, both those who have continued to provide our customers with the highest level of service and those who have returned to work with the same dedication as before the pandemic.
‘We have worked hard to implement wide-ranging ‘Return to Work’ safety procedures to ensure the health and safety of everyone within EPC-UK, and we will continue to work closely with our employees and customers to safeguard their security.’