Keeping people safe has been the national priority over the last seven months. As a customer-facing business, we spent a long time making sure that our workforce is safe, particularly those who continued to deliver services during the lockdown. Steve Fowlie our health and safety lead shares our approach.

We had to act pretty quickly in March, even before the government announced the national lockdown. We’d already started to look at office closures and were in the process of planning how to reduce our services. We knew we couldn’t run all our services and the national guidelines were very clear about what we could and couldn’t do, but we needed to make sure that we could still, safely, support our customers with emergency situations.

Like everyone else we struggled with PPE, with low levels of stock, and little chance of getting more. We had to be creative with what we had and ration some of this to make sure that those out and about were protected and that our customers were kept safe.

We immediately developed a range of toolbox talks to help those who were working in our homes to keep safe and understand the measures they needed to take. We introduced new emergency repair risk assessments, so everyone was aware of what they needed to do. As part of this, we also revised our call centre script so when we received calls we could understand our customer position and record this. We were then able to advise our operatives and they could take appropriate action to keep themselves and our customers safe.

More challenging was the fact that all our office-based colleagues were now working at home. With almost no notice, many of us didn’t have a space set up to work from, and some not even a desk or chair. We accelerated our laptop roll out programme so everyone had access to IT and have been really flexible, allowing people to take home computer screens and other equipment as well as chairs and footrests and we are supporting the purchase of desks and other equipment to make these changes more sustainable.

We kept people updated with posts on our internal Yammer platform and encouraged everyone to complete a home working DSE so they could assess their workspace and make sure they were safe at home. We found that people were struggling with isolation and stress so shared information about support and encouraged people to take time for themselves. Most of us had not experienced this before, and some were not coping that well.

As we start to resume our services, we have a new set of challenges. Adapting our workplace and making it safe for those who need to use the offices has been a priority, with touch free door releases & fire door hold backs installed where necessary. We’ve produced more risk assessments, training and updates to colleagues about safe working practices and are cautiously assessing which services we can safely resume.

It’s certainly been a challenge and I’m not sure that things will ever be quite the same again. Our ability to act quickly and our ongoing focus on keeping our colleagues safe, both physically and mentally, has helped us through these challenging times. We’re now adapting everything for the future and now I think we’re pretty much ready for anything.