Fourayes is an essential business, a food manufacturer, and the message seemed perfectly reasonable to us. But then, if you’ve run a successful company for almost 60 years it’s a fair bet you haven’t achieved that without a healthy amount of common sense.
When the COVID-19 epidemic began to make the news feeds we realised immediately that things would change rapidly so we established, at the outset, our VIPER team (Virus Infection Protection Executive Resource).
VIPER comprises a small group of key people in the Business – people with oversight of all the vital areas and empowered to take the necessary action to secure the health of our colleagues and the continuous supply of delicious fruit products to our customers.
VIPER meets daily and has done so without missing a working day since the epidemic began.
To begin, there was little in the way of government guidance for running a COVID-19 safe environment for staff. The only guidance we had was our common sense.
Being a food manufacturing business we’re no strangers to running a safe working environment, achieving top accreditations in our BRC audits. COVID-19 simply brought a new level of challenge.
It seemed to us, in the absence of more detailed information, that three things would be critical: hand cleanliness, transmission surface cleanliness and distancing our workers from each other. This is now more commonly known as Social Distancing.
VIPER got things happening straight away: we’ve risk-assessed jobs throughout the Business, we’ve installed hand sanitisation stations throughout the offices and factory (we already wash our hands regularly, and for 30 seconds, because we’re handling food). We’ve issued all staff with their own personal hand sanitisers. We’ve employed two full-time cleaning staff to continuously sanitise all surfaces that come into human contact. We’ve put in place posters throughout the building to keep people sensibly distanced, installed one-way systems and reminded people of the reasons for these actions through ‘toolbox talks’ and via the canteen TV news screen.
We’ve done a lot more of course: putting in place COVID-19 defensive processes and procedures, offering staff the choice of masks, snoods or face shields, furloughing to achieve better social distancing and much, much more.
I’m proud to say that, several months in, we still haven’t had a single case of COVID-19 on the premises. Of course there are now government guidelines available so businesses can audit themselves against the recommended actions. But at the start there was only one type of guidance available: common sense. Thank goodness we had that in abundance.
Managing Director of Fourayes, vice-chairman of English Apples & Pears, Fruitician and Mad Scientist.