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BTB 52: Working Through COVID-19

Parts manager, Brain Jonker, relates some lessons learned from the early days of COVID on how to run essential services during a pandemic.
Headshot of Brian Jonker, parts manager

Brian Jonker, parts manager

At risk of overstating the obvious, these are the most unusual and trying times of my 24-year work career. The strange and scary COVID-19 virus has dramatically changed the way we live and work. Through all of this, forestry has been designated an essential service and therefore we forge on in the Tigercat parts, service and rebuild departments. We have not missed a day in taking and shipping orders or providing service phone support to our dealer network. However, I would not say it has been business as usual. Truth be told, it’s far from it.

We are engaging in all the best practices that have been outlined by the different health organizations. Social distancing, washing hands frequently, an abundance of sanitizer and more frequent cleaning of common touchpoints have all become the new normal.

In addition, we have been limiting access to our building. Not even our own long-haul truck drivers are allowed in certain areas. We have spaced out all our office employees, utilizing meeting rooms and previously unused areas. We have reconfigured our lunchrooms to only allow one person per table. Every individual is now responsible for cleaning his or her own workspace to ensure it is done to personal satisfaction, and to remove the risk of others touching that same space. If someone is ill, they stay home. No one in our building, or at our US warehouse in Georgia has displayed symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, but if that happens, we have plans in place.

In addition to the change in practices, we have had more frequent group meetings (while maintaining distance) even if it is just to share the most recent company news. It is necessary to take all of the previously mentioned precautions, but if it is not tied together with constant communication, I don’t believe it is possible to achieve true business continuity. In challenging times, it is more important than ever for everyone to be on the same page.

Laura Rourke, Tigercat health and safety manager.

Laura Rourke, health and safety manager has been critical to Tigercat’s COVID response. She has been planning and implementing new measures to ensure a safe return-to-work for all employees and has hosted many, many virtual meetings in the process.

With the threat of sickness and unemployment rates rising by the day, anxiety is at an all-time high. People want to work but only in conditions that make them feel safe. Priority number one for us is the health and safety of the employees. That includes mental health. Frequent meetings not only provide an environment to share information but also to receive feedback. Are people uncomfortable? If so, why? What can we do to improve the situation?

Within our company, a COVID-19 task force has been formed to create processes that provide stability and continuity within our twelve plants. The managers of all facilities have been meeting online every week with the COVID-19 group to discuss this everchanging situation. During these meetings, valuable information is gained and can be brought to the wider workforce. Sharing is essential. Everyone wants to be informed and they don’t want information to come second or third hand. In this way, rumors are avoided and trust is established.

Between here and our warehouse in Georgia, I am very proud of the people I work alongside with. It seems everyone has risen to the challenges thus far. People have been working together to keep things clean. They have been respecting each other’s space. There is a genuine feeling that people care about each other and our company. Over the last eight weeks we have had very few missed days and I keep saying that it is the healthiest I have ever seen the occupants of our building.

Good things can result from adversity. I believe that a number of the initiatives that have been implemented will become the new normal even after COVID-19 is defeated. These practices will help lead to a healthier future both physically and mentally. Stay safe and keep communicating.

Joe Barroso refills a bottle of hand sanitizer at the skidder plant. A large container of hand sanitizer has been stationed at the employee entrance to the plant. Employees are encouraged to bring a reusable bottle and keep hand sanitizer at their work stations.