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When COVID-19 Meets Culture

Corporate Ethics & Compliance Officer John D. Heckel

No one saw it coming and no one was prepared. In hindsight, we all realize now that we should have been planning for something like this all along. This is the story of how a crisis brought us together as employees and forced us to quickly adapt to a new normal. It’s also a story of how an industry came together to share best practices in a crisis.

When news first broke about a virus called COVID-19, it was speculated that it was no more than another cold or flu, right? As more information developed about how contagious this virus was, and how deadly it could be, it became evident to Manson leadership that we needed to immediately implement precautions. Manson formed a COVID-19 Task Force to find out as much as we could and to centralize communications and planning. The only thing we were absolutely certain of was that we were committed to the safety and well-being of Manson employees first and foremost. Our focus centered on what needed to be done to protect employees and their families from contracting the virus, and at the same time meet our contractual obligations to our clients while keep our essential operations functioning.

We set out to answer the classic questions “who, what, where, how and when.” We began to read everything we could about the virus, starting with searching the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. Early on, however, while the CDC and the World Health Organization had provided some guidance on protocols to prevent transmission of the virus, no one knew for sure exactly how the virus was spread and what was necessary to protect the health and well-being of everyone.

With so many questions still unanswered, in early March 2020 we implemented a Work From Home policy and a Don’t Come To Work If You Are Sick policy. One of our goals was to reduce the occupancy of our offices to enable better social distancing.

Our IT department quickly provided all employees with access to video meeting software, which meant we could limit in-person meetings. Manson’s President, John Holmes, hosted COVID-19-specific Department Head calls every morning to communicate, coordinate, inform, and share feedback. We modified our plans as new information was developed and we began sharing our response plan with clients, stakeholders, and interested parties via the Manson website.

Our Chief Operations Officer, Jim McNally, hosted twice-weekly COVID-19 operations calls with all area vice presidents. We created a COVID-19 SharePoint site to collect local/area regulations, response plans, tools, resources, etc. We also implemented schedule planning and log-in sheets to aid in contact tracing.

Our executives participated in industry groups and forums to discuss best practices in safeguarding employees from contracting the virus. We compared our plans to those developed by our partners and others in our industry and implemented the best practices of all plans. What you may not know is that while construction companies are rabid competitors when it comes to bidding and estimating work, we are willing collaborators when it comes to safety and protecting the public, ready to share best practices and solutions with one another.

We identified a Point of Contact (POC) for each office, jobsite, vessel, and work location. The POC is responsible for developing and implementing a site-specific COVID-19 plan that meets the federal, state, and local laws, as well as reflects any client’s notification requirements if someone were to test positive while working at the site. In addition, office layout needed to account for social distancing and Plexiglas barriers were erected around high contact work stations. Protocols for temperature checks were developed, masks required, and hand sanitizer and signage reminding of protocols distributed.

Perhaps the most important process put into action by the Task Force was centralized tracking of suspected COVID-19 cases. Manson’s Claims Manager, Jan Lindsey, contacted and interviewed all Manson employees who were, or could be, COVID-19 positive. She informed employees of our isolation protocols and let them and their job sites know when it was safe to return to work.

All the above was put together in record time. After reflecting on how we tackled this difficult and challenging situation, it occurred to me that we had subconsciously followed Manson’s three core values: Take care of people first and always; Do the right thing; and Find a better way.

It has been said that tough times don’t change who you are, they just magnify who you are. Covid-19 may have changed the way we operate, but it didn’t change who we are. Manson’s culture of compliance made it easy to implement a program that relied on all employees adhering to the protocols to make our program successful.

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