Prairie grain companies are making backup staffing plans in the event other employees are forced off the job because of sickness, according to the head of the Western Grain Elevator Association.
Wade Sobkowich said in an email message Tuesday that grain companies have a number of measures in place to keep workers healthy, including workplace distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols, but added they are also preparing for a worst-case scenario. “They have also been implementing skeleton crew processes to keep workers in the wings that will be able to carry on the essential functions should someone fall ill,” he said.
Protocols are different at each company, so Sobkowich said he could not provide further details on any specific contingency plans.
For now, critical Prairie grain movement is being maintained, even as the covid-19 pandemic shuts down large portions of the Canadian economy and forces many other workers into self-isolation at home.
Under the current circumstances, Sobkowich said employee absenteeism is the biggest risk, not only as it relates to grain company employees but also those in private and public services necessary for the movement of grain, including the longshore industry, farmers, railway workers, the Canadian Grain Commission and vessel pilots, among others.
“For the most part, elevator staff want to work and do their part to keep the essential grain supply chain open,” Sobkowich said.
A policy note released by Guelph, ON-based Agri-Food Economic Systems over the weekend also warned of the possible ramifications of worker absenteeism in the food chain, suggesting it would be prudent for employers to create a trained pool of workers who could both “assist with consumer demand surges and be able to fill in those cases where regular employees are forced to stay home and self-isolate.”
Source: DePutter Publishing Ltd.
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