An update from Italy: Supporting our clients during the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 22, 2020

In Italy, our Stantec offices are supporting their clients through a combination of review, planning, and response actions

By Gloria De Masi Gervais

 

Since March 8th, 2020, the typically vibrant country of Italy has been on lockdown with full social distancing and no travel or mobility allowed except for health reasons, to go to work, and to buy food and medicines. Only supermarkets, food shops, and pharmacies are still open. Only businesses that are considered strategic or essential are still operating (food chain, pharmaceutical, public transportation, energy, waste, textile, chemical, O&G, mining, professional firms such as engineering and architecture, and some others), but must apply either as much remote work policies as possible or apply heavy distancing and sanitary protocols.

Social distancing is probably harder to apply for Italian people whose culture and values are strongly based on strong social relationships, physical proximity, and friendly physical contact. Not shaking hands or not meeting in person is difficult to accept in our local business habits. However, the population has so far very diligently accepted all these new rules.

In any case, after several weeks of lockdown, these measures are now showing their results and the Government is considering re-opening businesses and other activities, at least partially, beginning May 4th, provided that companies apply and implement the new health and safety procedures needed to fight against this pandemic.

 

 

What has changed in our work, and what clients have been asking us to respond to in this crisis

Project / Program Management: Nearly all of our clients have requested that we assess COVID-19 impacts on on-going projects/program and in some cases, they also requested contingency plans and improvement options to meet deadlines. Some clients were aware since the beginning of the pandemic that full lock down could be a possible national option in the near future. With that understanding, they asked us to develop contingency plans to meet existing deadlines. 

Case Study 1 - Manufacturing client: In a specific case, by proposing partnership with known, trusted, and efficient suppliers allowed us to propose a feasible contingency plan that would have allowed a five-week schedule to be streamlined into a two-week schedule. In essence, we were able to completely change the work plan and provide our client with a fast track alternative.

 

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Services

Remote EHS and social audits: We’ve proposed and agreed with our client (global entertainment company) to continue their supply chain Corporate Social Responsibility auditing program in several EMEAI countries even during COVID-19 restrictions, by conducting EHS and social audits remotely, through Skype interviews and desktop review of evidence made available by the sites. This is an example of significant work process approach changes and maximized flexibility between client and vendor.

 

Review of client environmental liability priorities and environmental services optimization for reduction of site work activities

While the COVID-19 government restrictions ask for limitation of any activity which cannot be postponed and is urgent, environmental legal requirements are still enforced. We have clients who are asking Stantec to check environmental liability in view of the COVID-19 restrictions to identify non-deferrable activities.

In practice, we are supporting these clients by providing clarity around which environmental activities can be postponed and the related impacts to these delays, as well as re-planning site work and liaising with authorities.

Local authorities, as well as the clients and Stantec, are facing this situation for the first time. As such, Stantec’s knowledge of the legislative environment and communication protocols with Italian authorities allows for a smooth process in updating these environmental plans.

Case Study 2 - Manufacturing client: Update request for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) cost for year 2020-2022, removing anything not fundamental in respect to legal requirements.

 

EHS Safety procedure updates for business continuity & reduction of transition time / EHS Safety procedure implementation

In this case, the main objective is to support clients and enable safe operations in view of this crisis, which could also result in deciding not to proceed, depending on Government instructions and the level of criticality of the activities.

  • Where activities must proceed in this COVID-19 environment, we understand that business continuity and reduction of transition time are critical factors for our clients
  • Clients are asking for guidance to re-structure—in the most effective way—EHS procedures for our work, as well as their own activities, in order to meet Government and client corporate requirement (if any)
  • In this very fluid and emotional landscape, it's important to stay focused on key objectives and priorities and not let opportunities to make a positive impact pass you by. This is one way that our Stantec team can add value: with our ability to manage EHS risk assessments and implementation processes

 

We support EHS procedure updating and transition process by:

  • Supporting/recognising/accepting change (COVID-19 will change the way we work at least in the short term if not longer)
  • Identifying key objectives and priorities to keep projects on-track for implementation during these changes (Safety of the community; Safety of every single worker; meeting Governmental/Client/EHS requirements)
  • Identifying alternative scenarios
  • Planning for potential changes
  • Testing, updating plan during implementation (verify plan is feasible on site; verify the plan is followed by the workers and does not add extra stress on top of their standard work)
  • Testing and iterating updates to plans as the crisis continues to develop

This is a major change for everybody, it can develop trust and strengthen or build new relationships. Collaboration between our clients and project teams is key to our ability to make a positive impact. 

Case Study 3 - Manufacturing client: coordination with facility EHS manager to develop EHS COVID-19 measures for any impact to Stantec & client activities + verification & testing on site.

 

 

What help we are proactively offering our clients

Based on experience we have been able to show how flexible and dynamic we can be, even in remote working (smart working) mode. We have also been promoting our remote working measuring tool, “Smafely”, that we developed a few months ago (www.smafely.com).

In addition, we are proactively considering and weighing potential scenarios in view of the potential for escalation and next steps of the crisis based on our global experience. For example, large organization such as Governments might not be as nimble in taking required actions. Based on available data and experience from other countries, we could provide support to clients as they evaluate possible future scenarios.

 

Extra measures for securing site works

During this crisis, Governments decisions—not only in Italy—have with necessity, been made with little notice in order for them to be timely and effective. For this reason, previous to the start of each weekend our teams have been preparing project sites for potential closure, prepping them in the even that this move is required. Increased security measures for site work closures were also proposed and accepted on active project sites.

 

A plan to be ready to re-start

When business interruption is unavoidable, we have proposed actions to prepare and set the stage for a quick project re-start, as soon as conditions will allow it.

Case Study 4 – Manufacturing site decommissioning. At a manufacturing site where we were supporting facility closure, before leaving the site, we mobilized critical machinery to be on site (we could not be certain of the availability of the critical machinery at time of project restart). Additionally, we replaced the existing site waste containers and increased the number of containers on site. Thanks to collaboration of suppliers, we were even able to do this at no additional cost to our client.

                     

Cleaning and Sanitization of working areas

Depending on the client, and the specific project, there may be a need for re-assessment of actual project conditions, site works, facilities, and sanitization. Since we provide cleaning and draining activity management for some of our manufacturing clients, we can extend these services, utilizing existing suppliers who are well-versed in the clients/sites and can more efficiently response to needs. _q_tweetable:When business interruption is unavoidable, we have proposed actions to prepare and set the stage for a quick project re-start_q_

Looking ahead, based on our knowledge of the industrial production sector, we believe that this crisis may bring along some significant transformation. Services and supply chains are likely to be redesigned by the crisis. From the way production site layouts are designed, to global production interconnections. We need to be aware of these possible transformations and support our clients in this.

As various businesses have demonstrated in the examples we have provided,  a robust EHS management system and design partner can provide vital response flexibility and cost savings, while also supporting the timely identification of other non-EHS related issues, such as, technical, logistical, procedural issues.

Since many businesses might not have sufficient EHS resources for adequate implementation of helpful actions during this period, in addition to the above EHS services, Stantec’s Italy offices are providing temporary support to client sites and EHS departments by collecting / managing site EHS data, and verifying the implementation of the new measures on site.

 

Next-step services provided to our clients:

  • Updating company documents in accordance with Italian Health & Safety Act (81/08) and Management Systems, risk evaluation documentation, personal safety device distribution models, safety and coordination plans, and inspection reports
  • Procurement of materials for access to office / building sites, masks, disinfectants, gloves, temperature measurement scanners
  • Organization of workstations, access and entry to the site/office
  • Preparation of work areas and construction site areas, with creation of separation barriers, providing places to deposit potentially infected material, dedicated routes to reach services, etc.
  • Ad hoc training on safe site work, in-office safety, management of common areas

 

Actions to take now for future work in our offices:

  • Redesign of spaces, in order to limit overlaps and gatherings, and to maintain safe distancing
  • Redefining/redesigning building entrance areas, in order to clearly indicate where to 'disinfect' hands before gaining entry to interior spaces or offices
  • Investments in equipment and safety devices for employees (temperature scanners, gloves, disinfecting gel, masks, etc.)
  • Redesign of meeting rooms to foster safe distancing, ensuring adequate air filtration, etc.

 

About the author

Gloria De Masi Gervais has been Stantec Italy's Communications Manager since 2007. Professional with extensive experience in corporate and marketing communication, in the press office and in digital communication, with a particular focus on Corporate Social Responsibility and the environment, Gloria has coordinated a series of international projects with the involvement of various corporate functions.

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