Just over a year ago, a virus we had never heard of completely changed the world and forced us all to make major adjustments to our company operations, our daily work and our personal lives.
Since the arrival of COVID-19, we have implemented many protections and protocols at Seaspan to enable employees to safely continue to work. Across all three shipyards, in total 29 employees have tested positive. This equates to 1.3% of our Shipyard total employees, compared to the Province where about 2.1% of the general population have tested positive. That we have been able to stay well below provincial rates is 100% because of the hard work of all employees to follow the rules that keep yourself and your colleagues safe. I am sincerely grateful for your discipline and persistence.
Equally impressive, due to relentless mask-wearing, physical distancing and keeping contact surfaces sanitized, we have not seen any spread of COVID-19 within the shipyards. Out of the 29 employees who tested positive, 10 were office workers (four of the office workers were working from home and presented no risk of workplace exposure). Any employees who were identified as potential close contacts and required to isolate were eventually able to return to work and did not contract the virus. In fact, all employees who tested positive have been able to return to work once they were symptom free.
As COVID-19 has continued to impact our communities, Seaspan has been working closely with Public Health, WorkSafeBC, Iridia and other external supportive stakeholders to keep the virus out of our workplace and keep our people safe. Part of that engagement required a detailed examination of how we are managing the risk of transmission across the yards. While Public Health and WorkSafeBC have provided guidance, we went one step further, inviting third-party Industrial Hygienists to our shipyards to examine our response to this global pandemic.
So far, we have seen four of these assessments completed by a third-party Hygienist in each of the three shipyards. Some of the actions from these assessments included improvements in communications and messaging, additional engineering controls with hard barricades (Plexiglass), and improved maintenance and optimizations of HVAC systems.
Other measures we have implemented include:
- Installation of Plexiglass partitions throughout work areas.
- Meeting rooms and boardrooms have reduced numbers and physically distanced ‘dots’ on the desk surface for safe spacing, and signage on each room indicating max seating capacity.
- Signage throughout the buildings to indicate areas to stand at reception, and to denote traffic flow in washrooms, cafeteria, print rooms, coffee stations, elevators, etc.
- Reception have implemented routine questionnaire checklists for all visitors to the site.
- Security gatehouses have a questionnaire checklist for all traffic visitors to the site.
- Enhanced day cleaning on all touchpoints, as well as deep clean protocol where required.
- The availability of cleaning products in all common areas to sanitize before and after use.
- Additional hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout all buildings.
- Closure of our on-site gym, and alternate memberships offered at a local gym.
- Masks have been handed out to employees and Reception has a ready supply at all times.
- Bus service has been modified to meet COVID-19 safety standards.
The spread of variants of the virus is being monitored by our Public Health officials, and we also continue to enforce that all foreign contractors and anyone exempt from isolation is required to provide proof of a negative COVID test upon arriving in Vancouver and before entering the yard. As Public Health provide updates, we will continue to assess and adjust our risk mitigation strategies, ensuring that our approach to managing the pandemic continues to be assessed by third-party specialists in hygiene.
As we enter our second year of the pandemic, we have also entered the third wave with variants of the virus reminding us that we must continue to respect all risk reduction protocols. Public Health has announced new ‘expedited workplace closure orders’ which allow WorkSafeBC inspectors to shut down a workplace for a period of 10 days or longer if three or more workers have COVID-19 and it is determined by Public Health to be transmission in the workplace. Depending on the situation, this type of shutdown may only involve one particular location or team. However, the implications are clear that worker safety cannot be put at risk and extra vigilance is required by all of us.
Safety is at the core of everything that we do, and we have made every effort to ensure our shipyards are a safe environment for employees to work – whether in the yards or offices. I am counting on each of us to do our part by continuing to complete daily self assessments and stay home when you are unwell. This key principle – combined with mask wearing, proper hand hygiene and keeping your distance from others – will reduce transmission of this illness and keep our shipyards open. These small simple steps have kept us safe and moving forward for a full year and are the best tools we have to get us to what we all hope will be a safe and normal summer.
Teamwork Builds Ships