From the desk of Captain Jeffrey Monroe, MM, AMPE
Employers are obligated to provide their employees with protective gear needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs. In the port industry, we're very familiar with Personal Protective Equipment ("PPE") and the need for it on a daily basis. Under the current circumstances, the PPE needed for safe operations has broadened, and the needs of port operations with it.
As with other job hazards, the PPE needed to keep employees safe in a pandemic climate must be assessed and applied according to the employee's duties and the nature of the hazards they will encounter. In order for PPE to be effective, PPE must be:
Properly fitted and some must be periodically refitted (e.g., respirators);
Conscientiously and properly worn;
Regularly maintained and replaced, as necessary;
Properly removed and disposed of to avoid contamination of self, others or the environment.
If you are managing a port, and starting to bring workers back or re-evaluating the PPE needed for ongoing operations, it is critical that you understand:
1) The PPE needed for employees,
2) How that PPE is effectively deployed, and
3) When that PPE needs to be replaced.
It is no different than making sure safety vests and hard hats are worn correctly and in good order.
Likewise, workplace fatigue and stress related to the ongoing pandemic represents a hazard to your workplace and your employees. the CDC provides some guidelines and resources here. The bottom line is that the pandemic is inherently stressful, and it is crucial to pay attention to your employee's mental health in addition to their physical health.
Running a port in the age of COVID-19 has placed dynamic and complex challenges at the doorstep of port managers and executives. As we always say: Cover your assets. Your most valuable asset is your personnel; by keeping employees safe, and staying informed, you are setting your port up to succeed through this challenging time.