We are social animals and like to mix with our fellow human beings. In normal times, friends and colleagues will regularly break the social space. Changing our instinctive behaviour requires constant, consistent messaging and regular supervision, to nudge people to change their natural behaviour. Rather like Pavlov’s dogs we (hopefully) become conditioned to respond in a particular way i.e. maintain a safe distance without thinking but it is rather easy to ‘forget ourselves’. There is detailed guidance available on creating a COVID-secure facility but despite this, some sectors have experienced problems. Take the food processing sector. It represented circa 15% of the pre-pandemic GDP and 15% of the manufacturing sector workforce. It is in fact the largest subsector by headcount, who are classed as essential workers and have continued operations throughout the pandemic. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said in August 2020 that there were around 40 food factories with active outbreaks in England, Wales, and NI and a September report⁴ by Pensions and Investor Research Consultants (PIRC) stated that there had been at least 1461 cases and 6 fatalities but believe the actual figures to be much higher. The outbreaks have variously been blamed on difficulty in maintaining social distance (standing within 1 meter is allowed in this case) but also transmission outside the workplace because many co-workers live in multiple occupancy homes and tend to car share or use (overcrowded) public transport. A major outbreak has the potential to halt production which could cause food shortages in the UK’s just in time supply model. Maintaining the supply chain across all sectors is vital to helping the economy recover but worker’s safety must remain of paramount importance.
In conclusion, rather like home working and because you cannot manage what you do not measure, perhaps there is a role for technology to support social distancing, as well as providing track and trace and other insights? In future articles, we will look at the use cases for smart technologies, review the technologies available as well as their cost-benefit.
- Homeworking set to more than double compared to pre-pandemic levels once the crisis is over. CIPD press release, 16th June 2020
- HSM podcast, 20th September 2020 https://hsmpodcast.podbean.com/
- Leviticus 13:46
- PIRC Sector Briefing: Food Production, September 2020