Five ways to ensure your off-site team stays safe – physically and mentally
As is the case for many of our peers, the past 12 months have been something of a challenge when it comes to ‘human logistics’. While our office-based roles switched seamlessly to remote working, for our electrical engineers – who spend a significant amount of time on the road – we had to make some swift changes.
Our project managers, fitters, and jointers are often spread across the four corners of the UK, so keeping them safe, while we’re located far-and-wide and facing a myriad of Covid-related health and safety challenges, has been nothing short of a mountain to climb.
We spoke to Darrell Johnson, Smith Brothers’ SHEQ manager, to uncover his top five tips for keeping site staff safe when they’re out of sight – and making sure they aren’t out of mind.
1. Maintain healthy communication
This may sound like an obvious one, but we’ve relied so heavily on clear communication over the past 12 months. While there is some sense of ‘Zoom fatigue’ — and we all feel a little more disconnected than usual — it’s important not to let internal comms slip.
From daily check-ins, monthly toolbox talks, and structured site manager meetings – all delivered by the power of Microsoft Teams – we’re not only keeping an eye on the day-to-day work at hand, but on each other’s physical and mental wellbeing, too.
Providing a platform for colleagues to ask questions and share ideas – or simply have a good vent – has proven central to keeping the organisation moving forwards. Let’s face it, the past year has left us all feeling battered and bruised in many ways, so being able to talk it out, has been key.
2. Regular briefings
Linked to the above, there’s a clear need to ensure the more ‘formal’ information is communicated to all colleagues in an efficient and clear manner.
Whether it’s organisational change, legislative or regulatory updates, or news of a retained ISO accreditation, employees should feel like part of the team, regardless of whether they are working in the office, at home, or on a site in the Scottish Highlands.
3. Follow up and complete actions
During the pandemic, it became abundantly clear that employees in all manner of roles can quickly become isolated and feel ‘out of the loop’. This is, of course, nothing new for people who spend many weeks on the road at a time, but it’s reinforced the importance of sharing information and updates, recognising accomplishments, asking for regular feedback, and evidencing your own action.
4. Know your staff
It truly does pay dividends to take the time to get to get to know off-site colleagues on a personal level – just as you would a team you physically share an office with week in, week out.
No matter where colleagues are working, they should feel as though their contributions matter to the company – above anything else. And, a good team leader should understand what ‘carrots’ work for which team member.
For example, some staff may need a little more encouragement or support when it comes to decision-making, others may be natural leaders and keen to motivate others to work efficiently. Understanding how people work – both independently and as a wider function – is the very first step towards creating a happy and motivated workforce.
5. Ensure PPE is available
The physical equipment required to keep those working on electrical engineering projects is, arguably, one of the most important aspects of physical health and safety – that’s why every one of our site staff receives a complete pack of PPE when they join the team.
We’ve made some significant adjustments to our policies, procedures, and procurement over the past 12 months. These changes are not just about stopping the spread of coronavirus but ‘protecting our people’ long into the future – and ensuring we use best-in-class suppliers.
With that in mind, in December, we signed a new partnership with Defib Machines. The firm now looks after the supply of all our Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), ensuring there is one available on our sites across the country.
So, whether we’re working on high-voltage connections, carrying out a simple maintenance assignment, or simply travelling to a job – upholding the industry’s highest health and safety standards remains at the heart of what we do.
You can download a copy of our health and safety policy, here.