Sun | Jul 12, 2020

Good response to SAJ COVID-19 compliance audit

Published:Tuesday | May 12, 2020 | 12:05 AM
Social distancing being practised in the customers’ waiting area of a member company of the Shipping Association of Jamaica.
Social distancing being practised in the customers’ waiting area of a member company of the Shipping Association of Jamaica.

PRELIMINARY RESULTS from the COVID-19 compliance audit being conducted by the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) among its 79 members, show that members have been complying diligently with government guidelines. The audit commenced on Monday, April 27, to ascertain the level of compliance of member companies and tenants to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers, in accordance with the Government of Jamaica’s Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) Order 2020 to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

In launching the audit, SAJ President Charles Johnston said that “the shipping industry’s efforts at self-regulation reflect a commitment to responsible corporate citizenship”. He described the initiative as “a means to ensure that the shipping industry can remain open and play its role in maintaining vital supply links”.

The audit, which is being conducted by the SAJ’s Occupational Health Department, is 50 per cent complete and the reports show that SAJ members are being thorough in implementing all the enforcement measures under the order.

The audit includes the completion of a detailed questionnaire followed by an on-site tour of the facilities by the SAJ’s occupational health officer, Nurse Deanmarie White, to examine the cleaning and personal protective equipment in use, the preparation of isolation rooms, and to observe actual procedures and practices.

On completion of each audit, the results are presented and discussed with the companies’ principals and recommendations made, where necessary, for new measures to be instituted at the workplace. The audit is revealing that SAJ members have been implementing all the measures required and, in some cases, even going beyond the government guidelines.

There are nine major audit areas, which include management plans to control risks and support the workplace, implementation of the emergency response plan, communication, and emotional and mental support.

MANAGEMENT PLANS TO CONTROL RISKS AND SUPPORT THE WORKPLACE

The audit elicits information as to whether the top management of companies have met since the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss and plan measures to be implemented. It also seeks to find out (among other things) if a crisis management team has been formed, and how often they meet; if there is a written response plan in place, in the case of workplace exposure to COVID-19; and if there is a budgetary allocation for COVID-19 response. So far, all the companies visited have acted promptly in activating these measures.

The audit also shows that companies have prepared written protocols regarding: follow-up with workers who may have been affected; deep cleaning and sanitisation of all affected areas; measures for an isolation area; and advisories to staff that persons with symptoms, such as coughing, should not report to work.

COMMUNICATION

“Communication is one of the most vital tools for fighting this pandemic,” Nurse White declares, adding that there needs to be not only effective channels of communication within the workplace, but with customers, the industry and the Government health authorities. The audit therefore seeks information regarding the companies’ efforts to obtain information and updates from the official, governmental channels in relation to COVID-19, and if the companies have ensured that current updates are made available to all workers and visitors.

The communication audit also reveals that companies have been making current updates available to all workers and visitors, and have been placing posters and signage in clearly visible areas, advising staff and visitors of updated info on COVID-19.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

There are a number of measures that can be taken to ensure that social distancing is adhered to, and the audit seeks to find out if are there markers on the floors to indicate the spacing between each person while they wait in line, and if the office has been rearranged to ensure the required spacing/distancing as recommended by the Government.

Social distancing can also be enhanced by alternative work arrangements, such as facilitating remote work and shift work in teams, and the audit investigates if and how such plans are being implemented. The SAJ’s Occupational Health Department recommends that team members should not be interchangeable between teams, in order to prevent cross-infection of teams should one member become infected.

EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL SUPPORT

“This is a period of great stress and so we need to pay attention to the emotional and mental state of all staff,” Nurse White declares. She said the audit seeks to find out if provisions are in place to support workers during this time, and if anything is being done to ensure that workers still feel connected to the workplace, even if they are working remotely.

HIGH LEVEL OF COMPLIANCE

SAJ members are cooperating with the COVID-19 audit process and the reports are showing a very high level of compliance with the government guidelines. The SAJ’s Occupational Health Department will be completing the audit, while at the same time continuing to offer advice and support to its members who are providing yeoman service to the country by keeping the supply chain open for all Jamaicans.