WITH THE EASING OF LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS AND THE GOVERNMENT URGING A RETURN TO WORK AND LEISURE, WE SPOKE TO BRYAN LAWRIE, COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR AT SAFETY COMPANY ARCO, ABOUT HOW OUR INDUSTRY CAN REASSURE WORKERS AND CUSTOMERS THAT WE HAVE THEIR SAFETY AS A TOP PRIORITY
How can effective use of PPE be implemented in the retail and hospitality sectors and what solutions can you offer?
I think the first thing to say is that everyone needs reassurance that those around them are taking every precaution to ensure the highest possible safety standards. This is true of your staff front and back of house and your customers and guests. Without that reassurance, your staff won’t feel confident about returning to work and your customers will be reluctant to visit restaurants, cafes and pubs.
As Experts in Safety we are working with our customers to understand the Government guidance as it changes and to advise them on the relevant risk management and control measures that they can implement to adhere to this guidance and prevent the spread of coronavirus. We have advised on: handwashing and sanitising, enhanced cleaning regimes, social distancing and where this is not possible, we recommend the use of PPE.
We recommend face visors, masks and coverings as the best preventative measure to stop the spread and reduce the risk of others catching COVID-19. These are the best options in industries such as hospitality, restaurants and catering, where social distancing is not always possible. In these situations, we would recommend purchasing a type II mask.
As experts in safety our core business is selling the correct safety equipment to those that need it. We recommend anyone buying any type of PPE for the first time, works with an experienced supplier to ensure the safety of staff and customers. We also have a lot of great advice on our website on purchasing PPE and facemasks for anyone who may need it.
Have you been able to/will you be to tailor different solutions/products to different lines of work – ie. the difference between customer-facing operations and other activities where staff interact only with other staff?
Yes, we have assisted customers with “front of house” operations to ensure the correct products are supplied to protect workers and promote customer confidence. This includes providing hand sanitising stations, disinfectant wipes and protective faceshields and masks. We are also able to help with protecting back of house teams, giving advice on cleaning and hygiene and PPE.
Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted sales for PPE and has it focused attention on specific products/product lines?
Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen unprecedented demand for all types of PPE, with a particular focus on products such as respirators, gloves, and coveralls, we’ve also seen an increase in demand for cleaning and hygiene products: hand sanitisers and wipes, for example. In the early stages of full lockdown, we were focussed on prioritising critical businesses, such as healthcare workers and food production industries and now the restrictions are easing, our role is to support those customers getting back to work, re-opening their businesses to the public and helping to re-energise the economy.
Has this period prompted innovation? If so, could you give an example?
A great example of this is in the development of face shields. When demand rose significantly we had to manage our stock carefully. The issue with the pandemic was the shields needed to be disposable, meaning customers needed a cost effective solution.
We worked with a local company to design and manufacture a product that was lightweight and suitable for the rigours of the task but with cost in mind. This product is now classed as a ‘semi disposable’ faceshield, providing a safe and cost-effective solution.
Do you have plans to bring new products to market in light of Covid-19?
We have sourced many new products and are working with new suppliers and manufacturers to ensure we can meet the increased demand in our customer base. Many items including masks, visors, hand hygiene products, sanitising wipes and gloves were not a regularly purchased product for many of our customer but are now part of their typical order.
Have challenges within the supply chain arisen? What measures have you taken to mitigate such challenges?
With an influx of PPE from new suppliers, some products entering the market have been found to be non-compliant and may not provide the appropriate protection, potentially posing a safety risk for the wearer. There is also evidence of false documentation, containing incorrect CE marking and declarations of conformity, making it difficult for purchasers to establish which products offer correct protection.
With our own independently accredited product assurance lab, Arco is uniquely positioned to advise our customers about non-compliant products that are finding their way into the marketplace. We have also been using our deep technical knowledge on product quality and conformity to assist the OPSS and Trading Standards in their effort to keep non-compliant products out of the supply chain.
Are you able to offer further value to the service you’re able to offer clients – eg. guidance and advice, training, risk assessment, maintenance of products etc.?
To help businesses, Arco has published a series of freely available expert advice sheets starting with risk management and covering the necessary safety measures; social distancing, hand washing, sanitising cleaning, disinfecting and PPE and face masks. The practical advice also features a downloadable sample risk assessment, step by step guides, infographics and checklists. You can find them all here: https://www.arco.co.uk/coronavirusadvice
How have you yourselves added safety measures as a result of the pandemic?
As soon as the lockdown came into force, our priorities were the safety of our people and of our customers. We closed the majority of our nationwide network of stores but some remained open where we were supporting customers in critical industries and purchases were available on a Click and Collect basis. All safety protocols and social distancing was in place.
However, our recently extended National Distribution Centre in Hull remained opened and worked to full capacity, fulfilling orders for the NHS, hospitals, other public sector health bodies and critical industries such as food manufacturing and supply. We were able to support all our customers in these sectors during lockdown and are now doing all we can to help businesses as they start to re-open, working to protect their staff and their own customers.