Ensuring the availability of utility services is critical, especially now. Many utilities have business continuity plans, but few have contemplated the wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19. Here are some ways to protect your workforce and ensure continuity of services.
Follow government guidelines and best practices for health and safety. The Centers for Disease Control and your state health department offer the most trusted advice. Given the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic, check these sources frequently, such as first thing in the morning and again when you end work for the day.
We all know the importance of social distancing, keeping six feet away from other. Here’s how to make that happen at work.
When working from home is not feasible for certain field jobs and those with essential on-site core functions, implement the following:
Look through the upcoming agenda items and determine with your governing body whether public meetings can be cancelled or postponed. If that’s not feasible, some local governments and utilities are using virtual meetings and providing a way for the public to participate online or by telephone or through written comments. An important consideration here is your state’s noticing and public meeting laws. You may want to consult your attorney about your options.
Use CDC and state health department guidelines to put a process in place for extra sick leave, for employees exhibiting any illness, or known to have been in contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19, and has been directed to stay home for self-quarantine.
Consider how best to enable paid sick or time-off for sick employees and for employees who need to be caregivers. Consider that since many schools are closed, and some employees may not have viable or affordable childcare options, they may need extra flexibility. Determine what policies you can put in place to help balance an employee’s need to work and care for children.
This is an incredibly stressful time. Here are some things you can provide to employees to help relieve some of the stress and allow them to focus on their work.
Supplies of critical items like treatment chemicals may become more difficult to acquire. Talk with supplier, distributors and shippers about their supply chains and potential vulnerabilities. Make contingency plans for obtaining alternative supplies. Check with state and local authorities about how they may offer potential logistical support to ensure deliveries can be made maintain critical utility services.
Additional security may be required at critical facilities, as resources run low and movement is restricted. There may also be a need to shelter employees at critical facilities to ensure continued operation. Ensure facilities have proper security and sheltering resources to protect your employees and these assets.
Put off any non-critical activities like some preventative maintenance and landscaping, etc. until things return to normal. Reroute staff to perform only critical activities that ensure continuity of service.
Stay in close contact with the public, stakeholders and authorities to let them know what your utility is doing to maintain services. Public communications may include details about conservation measures, protecting sewer from wipes, or alerting the utility about unauthorized uses of water. Reach out to local authorities to let them know what help you need to maintain service. This may include authorizations for workers to travel between sites, logistical help, key supplies or additional personnel resources.