During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, keeping employees safe goes beyond PPE, social distancing and temperature checks. Constant communication was also critical. Exchanging best practices between bakeries, from other food manufacturers and through webinars by ABA helped management ensure they were implementing the best possible safeguards against transmission. And transparency between management and employees helped foster trust that the company is doing everything it can to keep employees safe.

“None of us had a pandemic playbook to work from,” said Steve Katzenberger, chief operating officer, Hearthside Food Solutions, Downers Grove, Ill.

Like many bakeries, Hearthside Food Solutions quickly assembled a COVID-19 task force that met every day early in the pandemic to sort through CDC guidance and implement best practices. Talking to customers and others in the industry also served to sharpen their own protocols and share what the company was doing.

“We interacted with a lot of our customers because they were doing the same things — putting together their own playbooks,” he said. “So there was a lot of sharing of best practices with some of our major customers.”

The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, developed its own blueprint for COVID-19 protocols for retail, manufacturing, communications, sourcing, people and supply chain. The company has made it available for download.

“The blueprint is a resource for businesses of all sizes,” explained said Jesse Turner, senior director of human resources and manufacturing operations, corporate brands and manufacturing at The Kroger Co. “It provides guidelines and recommendations, insights, best practices and creative efforts to help businesses navigate the next phase of the unprecedented pandemic.”

Brian Dwyer, vice president of manufacturing operations at Kroger, also participated in one of ABA’s COVID-19 panels and shared how the company’s commitment to transparency with employees eased anxieties and helped employees trust that management was doing everything it could to keep them safe.

After a Kroger manufacturing facility had to be closed and thoroughly sanitized following an influx of positive COVID-19 tests, Mr. Dwyer and his team recorded the cleaning procedure implemented by the third party hired to sanitize the facility. When employees returned to the sanitized facility, they were able to watch the recording and see the lengths Kroger went to in order to maintain everyone’s health.

“That went a really long way to alleviating some of the concerns and fears,” he said.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Employee Safety, click here.