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Start Me Up: Ensuring Safety as Projects Resume After COVID-19 Delays

Ensuring Safety as Projects Resume After COVID-19 Delays
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on everything we do in our communities, businesses and homes. As part of the essential workforce that has helped keep energy and water flowing throughout these times, investor-owned utilities, cooperatives and municipal service providers have played an extremely critical role in keeping us all safe while we adapt to stay-at-home orders, social distancing and more.

Alongside our customers, safety is our top priority at Itron. To help ensure the safety of our respective employees and the communities we serve, Itron’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and Enhanced Field Services teams have developed a regimented project start/restart process that must be followed by our employees, contractors and suppliers as we resume work in the field with our utility and municipal partners. Key aspects of this process are highlighted below.

Safety Protocols for Project Start/Restart
Before any field work resumes or begins on new projects, Itron, our suppliers and our utility partners review and agree upon on a shared set of roles, responsibilities and Safe Work Protocols (SWPs). A formal go/no go document and review process is followed internally, including acknowledgements from our individual team members. Some of our due diligence includes the provisions below:
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, sanitizer and gloves is required for all field service employees.
  • A SWP document is provided to employees along with both indoor and outdoor training videos, depending on the nature of the work, that must be viewed prior to returning to the field.
  • A COVID-19 Return to Work questionnaire must be completed, certifying that the employee does not exhibit any coronavirus symptoms prior to deploying into the field and is comfortable returning to field work.
  • If there is a shelter in place order in effect for the community where the project is taking place, all necessary letters of approval for the workforce must be completed and on file. This would include formal designations of essential work as well as utility requests for service/installation work to begin.
  • Employees must follow the stated SWP and take the appropriate precautions when traveling to a customer by ground or air transportation, and when staying in a hotel.

Inventory and Equipment Retrieval Process
In addition to the safety protocols mentioned above, Itron’s field service personnel (both employees and contractors) and our suppliers must also observe the following rules when retrieving equipment to complete work orders in the field.
  • Personnel will arrive at the warehouse for inventory pickup at their assigned time. Personnel will not exit the vehicle until authorized to do so by the warehouse manager, and they will not be allowed to visit the warehouse outside of their scheduled time unless given specific approvals.
  • Personnel will enter the warehouse wearing their PPE (gloves and mask). PPE must be worn at all times.
  • Personnel will acquire their assigned inventory from the inventory pick area, which will include the needed quantities of PPE (masks, gloves, wipes and sanitizer).
  • Personnel will load their vehicle with their inventory and then will deposit their used PPE in the marked trash receptacle.
  • The warehouse manager will clean all contact surfaces between each person and will ensure inventory is ready for pickup by each member of our team.

As local, state and federal governments around the world begin to relax some stay-at-home/shelter-in-place restrictions, we are beginning to see the “new normal” of our post-COVID-19 world. And as infrastructure projects begin to ramp up and service providers refocus on other priorities, all of us at Itron remain committed to the safety of our employees, our utility and smart city customer employees, and to the consumers in our communities.