As the nation’s workforce is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, our demands for certain products have surged. To keep the supply chain moving, some businesses are redeploying staff to cover shortages in busy areas. However, redeployment can increase risks where sufficient precautions aren’t taken.
One of the areas where demand has increased is crisps. This has come as no particular surprise to me.
As a self-proclaimed crisp connoisseur, BBC’s Inside the Factory, Keeping Britain Going: Crisps Update was an unmissable bit of TV for me. In the show, Gregg Wallace remotely re-visits the Walkers factory in Leicester to discuss how they have met the unprecedented increase in demand while adjusting to the new normal under COVID-19. In addition to being a fascinating look into crisp production (honestly!), it is also a great example of how some businesses are adapting and overcoming the challenges presented by COVID-19.
The increase in demand has led to Walkers sending out an extra 1,000 pallets of crisps a day – not all to my house, I hasten to add. The factory hasn’t been immune to absences due to the pandemic though, so in order to meet with demand, and overcome staff shortages, employees who usually work in the office have been stepping in and running lines in the factory.
Without that support, the factory would have been forced to stop lines which could have led to a shortage of the nation’s favourite snack.
Although this flexible approach has kept an “essential” service running and many others like it, it is important for employers to consider the risks that any changes present. As my colleague Lynn has previously discussed, an employer’s legal duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their workers has not changed as a result of the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that what was considered safe before, is safe now. Health & safety issues need to be considered in the context of how a business is now operating.
When it comes to the crunch (sorry!), employers must ensure that they have risk assessed their operation as a whole to take account of any changes or new ways of working and to ensure that sufficient control measures are in place. They should also ensure all workers have been appropriately trained to allow them to carry out any new tasks safely.