I spoke with a WorksafeBC inspector this week and he told me how impressed he was that winery owners are very concerned about COVID-19 precautions–how to keep their employees healthy, how to sanitize surfaces, wearing proper face masks and gloves and following strict distancing guidelines. I thought to myself how great this is to hear–the wine industry has stepped up and is taking this seriously. Then he said that at one such winery, during an inspection, a worker got on a tractor to spray the vineyard without any protective suit, gloves, respirator or other PPE.
I thought, there seems to be a disconnect between how we are approaching health and safety during this crisis and permanently thinking about it year-round, every day and for every worker.
A couple weeks ago, I posted on facebook letting wineries know that I can work with them to put in place more comprehensive health and safety programs, but I immediately got schooled on how to clean and sterilize surfaces. It’s almost like people think health and safety protocols, PPE, and procedures began with COVID and will end with COVID.
I am less concerned that employers are going to be able to find information right now on how to socially distance or disinfect a countertop and more concerned how they figure out how to do regular workplace inspections that are meaningful. When WorksafeBC comes in with a list of deficiencies for a small business to work on, I approach it as an opportunity to look at your operations and integrate these changes with ways to make you more efficient, open up lines of communications between employees and management and build a stronger company culture.
Employees want employers to care about their well being, not just during these times but at all times. They don’t see it as unnecessary paperwork if they feel there is substance, real change and empathy behind it.
When we migrate to the “new norm” it would be great to see everyone take off their COVID masks and head out to spray their vineyards with fit-tested respirators. Cellar workers will go back to standing shoulder to shoulder but what if they now feel comfortable to report that corner of the barrel room where four people have slipped in the past month? Tasting Room workers will put away the “wine drive through” signs and maybe put up the “wet floor” signs, not just for the public, but because their first concern is for their co-workers. Management will stop regular checks on people working from home once they return to work, but wouldn’t it be great if they instituted regular checks on the employee working alone in the vineyard or the warehouse all day?
What if we never go back to our old ways but instead take the care and attention to detail we have used during isolation and made our businesses pivot in that direction permanently? I believe employees will be expecting this to happen and I hope all small businesses are ready to meet those expectations.