How we Adapted to the Evolving & Ever-Changing Covid Risk Landscape


Mobile Mini UK, which provides portable site storage solutions and accommodation units, has had to continue to trade throughout the pandemic. It is an essential infrastructure and logistics business, dealing with healthcare, local and national government, including Covid test centres. Health and Safety Director, Chris Watcham, tells us how the firm adapted to operate as normally as possible.

Mobile Mini operates a national network of 16 sites, providing more than 36,000 portable accommodation and storage units to about 11,300 customers, which range from nuclear and construction sites to shopping centres, hospitals and schools, as well as individual households. Each of these brings its own unique set of logistical and safety challenges. ‘Many tasks are typically two-person jobs, so these had to be reconsidered to take into account social distancing,’ explains Chris. ‘We immediately stopped several non-vital tasks while we looked at different ways of working. The furlough scheme made this less challenging, as workplace numbers reduced.’

Evaluating the Risks

Chris’ team developed a risk assessment template based on the key risks that needed to be controlled, and some of the more significant risks were expanded. The process was designed so that it could only be completed through consulting and engaging with branch teams. ‘We avoided even a hint of a generic approach,’ explains Chris, ‘and instead asked what measures each location had in place and how they deemed the risk. We populated part of the template with suggested controls so that those completing the assessment had some guidance.’

Shared Ownership of Risk Reduction

Regional coaching calls ran through the assessment process and covered any issues that came to light. The calls enabled staff to share their stories and ideas, which was a powerful tool in driving the ownership of the risk assessment process, Chris notes. Everyone realised that they were pivotal in helping to safeguard their branch and, subsequently, their teams. ‘This approach has underlined the importance of engagement when completing assessments and has provided a clear blueprint for how we approach our assessments moving forward.’ he adds. Fatigue was something Chris’ team considered carefully. ‘A lot of our employees were placed on furlough, so we looked at the competencies of those still working in the business to avoid indirectly affecting people’s behaviours and choices.’ First Aiders, Fire Marshalls, Forklift Operators, Welders and Electricians all had to remain operational, but with reduced staffing levels and a demand for the product, Chris had to ensure people weren’t unduly fatigued. ‘This was really challenging, and something that could easily have been overlooked.’

Putting the Controls in Place

The company introduced some simple but effective measures: new high visibility PPE for drivers and fitters, with ‘Keep 2m Please’ emblazoned on the back, and physical interactions such as the passing of paperwork were advised against. Additional controls such as hygiene stations and cleaning stations were introduced, to help stop both personal and surface transmissions. These measures were aligned with safety briefings and targeted communications to ensure there was no ambiguity around what was expected. Chris also had to consider the virus when the products were returned. In normal circumstances, any returning unit would be cleaned as standard but as a significant number of units were being used as Covid testing facilities, the company introduced a policy to quarantine every unit for 5 days before they were deep cleaned. ‘The Government guidance states the virus could potentially live on surfaces for 3 days so the extra time Mobile Mini implemented provided an additional safety measure.’

A New Approach to Hazard Identification

The firm updated its electronic accident and incident reporting system to include a dropdown section specifically for Covid-related hazards. These ranged from social distancing breaches to surfaces not being cleaned adequately or equipment not being sanitised. Once a hazard is identified on the electronic reporting system, this is escalated and distributed automatically so a review can be undertaken. A module around hygiene and cleaning was developed, which included information on where to place the instructional signage and cleaning stations. Again, this was shared via several group calls and circulated on the ground among the operational teams. The overall aim was to show that you are never too far from a hygiene or cleaning station and that provisions were in place for everyone’s safety. Temperature scanning devices and health checks were introduced at each location, including the company support centre, to check Mobile Mini’s staff entering the premises as well as visitors. The cost-effective devices have proven effective, says Chris. ‘Though not designed to provide a Covid test, they do help if anyone may be presenting themselves with a temperature. This control has been well received and the feedback has been excellent.’

The Importance of Keeping Everyone Updated

Mobile Mini also introduced a return to work induction processfor all employees who had been furloughed or had been working from home and were returning to work. ‘This covers the key ways we have managed Covid and our arrangements, as those who had been away from the business may not have been aware of the changes that we made.’ says Chris. Moving forward, the challenge must be to avoid complacency and remain vigilant to the new way of working. ‘Leadership will play a strong part in maintaining what we have achieved so far.’ he concludes.

This article originally appeared in Risk Assessment & Compliance

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