Editor's note: Industry consultant Kemp Anderson and Dr. Faith Oi, an associate extension scientist at the University of Florida, have joined forces to author a series of articles related to COVID-19 titled "Leading Your Company in Difficult Time." In the series (also available in Spanish), Oi shares her insight on the quickly emerging science as it applies to our industry, while Anderson provides his analysis the economic impact this event is having on our industry and what we can expect looking forward along with business specific actions when applicable (download article 1 article 2, and article 3). In this article, the fourth in the series, the authors provide advice for developing a crisis management plan.
One of the challenges when consuming news and recommendations is to confront our own confirmation bias. Confirmation bias simply means that we seek out news and information that supports our existing beliefs. This is especially challenging when there’s an overwhelming about of information being pushed out and a lack of consensus about how to interpret that information. The following section contains lessons in crisis management learned from the Harvard Business Review, which we found to be applicable in any crisis situation, not just the COVID-19 pandemic.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT—PERSONAL PLAN
- Update intelligence on a daily basis. Do your best to keep up with emerging information from credible new sources produced by investigative journalists.
- Consume balanced news and do your best to stay on top of things regarding Covid-19, healthcare and economics. Johns Hopkins Covid-19 website is one of many great sources.
- Beware of hype cycles/news cycles. Do not believe everything you read or hear. Fact check everything you can at this critical time. We can all certainly form our own opinions; however, we do not get to form our own individual facts. In this critical time, hyper news cycles are the norm. This can cause emotional reactions instead of rational, logical decisions.
- Don’t assume that information creates informedness. Good information and scientific facts create informedness. Many headlines today are written for ratings and “clicks”. Make sure that your information sources are accurate.
- Use experts and forecasts carefully. Making sure you are getting sound facts from sound sources has never been more important. Remember, garbage in will push garbage out.
- Constantly reframe your understanding of what’s happening. If you get too behind in today's events it will be very difficult to catch up.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT FOR YOUR BUSINESS
- Beware of bureaucracy. Keep your business streamlined as much as possible and beware of internal and external bureaucracy. Besides being maddening, it wastes a massive amount of time.
- Make sure your response is balanced across these “seven dimensions”:
- Communications, both internally and externally.
- Employee needs. Remember, our employees are the front lines serving our customers and how we respond to our employees is critical.
- Travel. At this point in the Covid-19 crisis, travel should only be done whenever it is absolutely unavoidable.
- Remote work. If the company has the ability to allow administrative or other employees in roles that are not front-line to work remote; you should consider doing so.
- Being part of a broader solution. Keep in mind that we are deemed an “essential service” so wherever possible we should help the community while putting safety first.
- Business tracking & forecasting is critical and as mentioned, we should not take our eye off the ball regarding the finances of our business. Track and forecast everything possible from employee and customer retention, to health and safety, and overall environmental issues.
- Supply chain stabilization is critical at this time, particularly in regard to employee PPE. In business and finance, supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources that are involved in moving a service from the service supplier (Pest Control Company) to the customers As an example, if one supplier is having problems that could damage your ability to serve the customer, make sure you have an alternate supplier.
- Use resilience principles in developing policies. This effectively is the capacity of a system to deal with change and continue to develop. Now more than ever we must remain nimble and resilient as leaders of our businesses and of our industry.
- Prepare now for the next crisis. This may seem like a crazy thought given we're currently in a crisis that we are trying to deal with, however, we need to know and understand we will get out of this crisis, but we will probably never be crisis free. There is the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 in the absence of a vaccine or cure. So, let's work together to get out of this one while looking down the road at what may be next.
- Intellectual preparation is not enough; we cannot lose the vision of our industry being people and health-centric.
- Reflect on what you’ve learned. Maybe you can keep a journal or notes, even on your phone or iPad. The current situation is evolving so fast it will be easy to lose sight of some of the things we are learning. Try not to let that happen.
- Prepare for a changed world. We really don't know what the world will look like in the months and years to come; however, things will be different for most of us. Not necessarily better or worse, just different and it's okay to acknowledge that.
TEAM HEALTH AND TRAINING:
As we learn more about COVID-19, so will recommendations on how to adapt and function in the age of COVID-19. One of the major changes in guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the use of cloth face masks. Using cloth face masks in public, particularly where social distancing is difficult to maintain, is now recommended by the CDC because it is becoming increasingly apparent that asymptomatic transmission is perhaps more frequent than believed. Additionally, someone who is “pre-symptomatic,” (=eventual will develop symptoms) can also transmit SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (https://bit.ly/3b8bxqq).
This virus is transmitted from human to human. It is not like Zika, Dengue, West Nile, or yellow fever that is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes or Lyme disease that is transmitted by ticks. It is important to minimize your exposure to SARS-Cov-2 like you would minimize your exposure to highly toxic pesticides. Our industry and our customers should benefit from being an essential service; however, as leaders, we should not misuse of this designation.
Training employees is a critical subject in normal times and especially today in the current COVID-19 environment and changing behaviors can be a challenge. Pest control companies are required to train workers and “new” training elements might also include:
- How to isolate individuals that are suspected or confirmed with the virus
- How to report cases
- How to use the appropriate PPE
The question of “what is appropriate PPE” and “worker protection” will change. We have always trained to use PPE “according to the label.” What factors should be considered in PPE selection now? According to OSHA, “Employers are obligated to provide their workers with PPE needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs. The types of PPE required during a COVID-19 outbreak will be based on the risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 while working and job tasks that may lead to exposure” (pg 15.) What PPE will be necessary at various stops during the day? OSHA advises that PPE must be “selected based on the hazard to the worker” (pg. 14 https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf) Additionally, PPE must be
- Properly fitted and periodically refitted, as applicable (e.g., respirators).
- Consistently and properly worn when required
- Regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced, as necessary
- Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of, as applicable, to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment
Critically, all employees should understand the limitations of the equipment and how it all works together to protect them as well as the customer. We may need to train employees how to recognize the difference between potentially contaminated areas versus clean areas, both at work and in field operations, when and where to put on and remove PPE, specifics on how to handle PPE when not being worn, how to safely handle and dispose of potentially infected materials and PPE, and again how to properly clean, disinfect, and maintain this new equipment. Please remember, there are OSHA training and reference materials online if you need the added support. OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page is a starting point. This page includes guidance on state plans.
As we look at control and prevention of COVID-19, we should consider measures for protecting our workers from exposure to and infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. All employers in our industry should consider writing and implementing infection control strategies, including administrative company controls, safe work practices, and required personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent worker exposure, ensure customer safety, and manage corporate liability.
Some OSHA standards may already apply to preventing occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and there is a high likelihood OSHA will want documentation that employers have educated and trained workers regarding the virus including PPE. OSHA requires COVID-19 cases be reported on the OSHA 300 log if COVID-19 is confirmed, was work-related, and the “case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid, days away from work)” (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html).
Partnering with appropriate attorneys, and potentially human resources and/or HR consultant is suggested. OSHA has already developed “interim guidance” to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19 that can be used to guide new company policies.
Safety should be top of mind at the start of every day, at every stop. SARS-CoV-2 is a deadly virus with no cure. As of today, April 16, 2020, 11:47 a.m. (EST) according to John Hopkins University COVID-19 mapping (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data#charts), the virus has infected 2,088,425 people causing 139,419 deaths around the world with the U.S. incurring 629,264 cases and 26,708 deaths. Please equip for safety, train for safety, and practice safe service.
The information contained in this article is for the general guidance of matters of interest only. The authors are not responsible for any errors or omissions or the results obtained from the use of this information. The information contained in this article is provided on an “as is“ basis with no guarantees of completeness, usefulness or timeliness. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors are not herein engaged in rendering financial, legal, tax, accounting or other professional advice or services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with the reader’s professional advisers. In no event will the authors be liable to any person, company or entity for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information in this article or for any consequential, special or similar damages.