New work regulations have been introduced in Linas Agro Group poultry companies in Latvia
During the lockdown, while many businesses are carrying out work remotely and residents have no lack in advice and instructions on how to avoid coronavirus, food industry companies are individually looking for solutions and measures to protect their workers from Covid-19 threats and to reorganize work processes so that to avoid food shortages in stores.
New work regulations have been applied at Putnu Fabrika Kekava, the largest group of poultry farms in Latvia managed by Linas Agro Group, during the lockdown: reduced teams of workers within shifts, as well as marking worker teams and work areas with different colours, and isolating them to avoid close contact at the workplace. The special safety and preventive measures were put in place during the pre-Easter week to prevent the coronavirus from entering the boundaries of the company and to protect the workers, as well as the poultry farming business from possible disruptions.
Unlike companies operating in some other business sectors, food production companies have virtually no possibilities to carry out work remotely during the lockdown. After the start of the lockdown, only a little more than 40 out of 1,100 employees can work remotely in Kekava, and all those people come to work in various workshops and departments every day. 50 new employees were hired within the last two weeks.
“Our biggest challenge is to ensure a safe working environment for the employees who come to work every day. The activities of a food production company have to be carried out without interruptions, therefore, it is very important that continuous processes are ensured within all chains: the feed production and poultry farms, logistics and other departments,” stated Andrius Pranckevičius, Chairman of the Board at Putnu Fabrika Kekava and Deputy Chairman of the Board at Linas Agro Group.
“Even if one employee got infected, it would be the worst case scenario for a company like ours, as, then, the whole shift would have to be quarantined, which could result in stopping the work of the entire company. There are no rules or advice on how we should organise or reorganise the operations of our company. Therefore, together with the heads of the company’s departments/workshops and lawyers, we have developed new internal rules of procedure, which would help reduce the risk of coronavirus infection and allow us to manage the situation more promptly if the infection is established within the company,” A.Pranckevičius said.
The activities of the poultry farms in Latvia have been reorganised in accordance with the new work regulations during the pre-Easter week. All employees have been familiarised with the new work organisation procedure and have been given relevant instructions.
First of all, the shift workers of the Company are divided into tens of smaller ‘coloured’ teams, consisting of 10-15 people. Each team is provided with distinctive marks, i.e. bracelets of different colours. The working areas inside the Company, within the boundaries of which the employees are obliged to stay, are also marked with appropriate colours. Additionally, the movement, arrival/departure and lunch break schedules for each team of employees have been developed, so that people who carry out work in different areas do not come into contact with those from other teams.
“We had to hire more buses and organise more routes for the carriage of the workers from the surrounding towns on a daily basis, so that we could provide the transportation service for each team separately. Access to/from the workplace has also been organised for each team separately. It took us quite some time to draw a variety of new worker movement schemes. We understand that such a procedure will cause additional difficulties, as well as will require more time and investment, however, today the most important thing for us is the safety of our employees,” said A. Pranckevičius.
Preventive measures in the Latvian poultry farming companies were already taken in early February to protect against avian influenza, which began to spread rapidly in neighbouring Poland and other European countries.
According to Andrius Pranckevičius, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Linas Agro Group, in preparation for the avian influenza pandemic, preventive measures were taken in poultry companies, and more strict procedures for the employee personal hygiene were put in place. A variety of internal means of communication, from video tutorials broadcast on TV screens to creative posters and stickers with information on hand washing and various types of bacteria and viruses present in common areas, were used to have the employees informed of the situation.
With the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, the companies have taken even stricter preventive measures: all business trips, travel and visits of guests, contractors and visitors have been suspended, the disinfection of the administrative premises is carried out twice a day and they are ventilated for at least 10 minutes every hour. The vehicles and buses that carry employees to work on a daily basis are also disinfected regularly. Employees who have at least the slightest cold-like symptoms are asked to refrain from going to work. All workers are also provided with vitamins to boost immunity, while honey, lemon and ginger are provided in the kitchenettes all year round, not just during the season when the spread of infections is more likely to occur.
In addition, mobile remote-controlled thermometers are used to check not only the temperature of employees coming to work every morning but also to monitor and “measure” the emotional state of employees.
“Every morning, we ask the heads of all departments not only to provide data on activities, production and sales but also to subjectively assess the emotional state of employees on a five-point rating scale. At first, many considered this decision to be strange, however, now we see that it is very important: especially so, when there have been days where the rating of the emotional state of employees in some workshops was just “three” or “two”. In the latter cases, we take additional steps to find out the reasons for such a situation,” says A. Pranckevičius.
According to him, the mood of employees at the moment is not really the best. It is not just the coronavirus that people are worried about as the practice of “measuring mood” has revealed, it happens that bad emotions may be caused by work-related issues or circumstances that can be resolved relatively easy. “I am glad that today the average indicator of the company employees “emotion meter” is approaching a strong “four” in our five-point rating scale,” A. Pranckevičius noted.
In the course of work during the lockdown, the group of poultry companies strives to overcome the difficulties by caring for and supporting not only its employees but also those who are at the forefront of this struggle. “The most important thing now is to support doctors who fight on a daily basis for the lives and health of people affected by the coronavirus. We will deliver 10,000 servings of chicken to Lithuanian and Latvian doctors within a month and will try to contribute to the management of this pandemic by our responsible behaviour in order to stop the spread of the infection as soon as possible,” says A.Pranckevičius.