Pile of Scrap Ep. 28: Safety During A Pandemic
During the novel Coronavirus pandemic, face masks and hand sanitizers have been a common procedure at essential businesses everywhere. However, over at Sierra, safety has been taken a step further when ensuring their employees are taking the necessary precautions. Felipe Guerra, Director of Safety at Sierra, joins Pile of Scrap once again to discuss the major changes they’ve made to ‘flatten the curve.’ Between daily morning temperature checks, air sanitizers in every office, and even changing all the door handles, it’s clear that Sierra’s safety team is unsurpassed.
Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.
Felipe Guerra and John Sacco
Intro: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery: Pile of Scrap with your host John Sacco.
John Sacco: Well, hello everybody. John Sacco here. And this is another episode of Pile of Scrap. And today, I'm joined with Sierra’s Head of Safety, Felipe Guerra. Felipe, welcome.
Felipe Guerra: Thank you. Good morning, John. Good morning, everybody.
John: So, this is funny. Here we are in Bakersfield in our same offices – our headquarters – and we deliberated, “How are we going to do this podcast? Do we do it in the same office? I'm not doing it with a mask… And, it all came down… We have to do it: Zoom. And, you're in the same area, man. It's crazy, but it's what we gotta do, right?
Felipe: It's what's required right now.
John: Well, you're a lot prettier without a mask anyway, Felipe. So, you know, listen, you know, Pile of Scrap. Um, I think this episode, you know, we're, we're continuing on and some states are opening up, some states aren't opening up. California is still pretty much in a shutdown mode, but, you know, going forward, I think some of these policies are going to be implemented for a long time until they find a real, uh, vaccine or a cure for it. And, I think that's where we want to hit today – some of the things we're doing at Sierra that we're probably never going to stop until there is an actual cure for this or a vaccine. So Felipe, you know, you've done a lot of hard work and so… You know, give it to you for a second. Just some opening thoughts of this last couple months, the craziness, and how you're doing, and how you feel everybody here at Sierra is doing.
Felipe: Well, first of all, I think we’re doing really good. Uh, the employees have embraced a lot of these changes very well. Um, it's, it's on to–it's on everybody's mind right now. I mean, COVID – we wake up and we see it everywhere, see it on the news… It's everywhere. So, we know our employees are seeing it. Um, but, overall, they're embracing it really well and, uh, our staff really feels, uh, we're doing what we can – we’re doing a lot to ensure their safety.
John: So, do you feel that, like, the office staff; accounting and, uh, Service Department, you know, more of the office staff versus the yard employees… Any difference in attitude –meaning the yard employees? A little more at ease versus the office?
Felipe: Uh, no. I know, uh, we're, we're taking precautions and all the departments, regardless of where they work – people that drive vehicles, people that are in offices, uh, staff that works out in the, uh, in our, in our yard, even our, our employees that work out in Jesup.
John: Okay. So, you've, uh, we've talked a little bit and organized a really great list of three areas in which you'd like to discuss engineering controls, administrative controls, and PP… PPE, not PPP: Payroll Protection Plan, but the…
Felipe: Personal Protective Equipment.
John: There you go. That’s why I got you, man. Good safety guide. Keep me out of trouble. Now, the reason I'm wearing this hat is look at this mop. I mean, I haven't had a haircut and so… Pardon me, everybody. I gotta wear a stupid hat. You look good though, Felipe.
Felipe: This is the longest I’ve had it in a long time.
John: Yeah, well, you should be in Hollywood. You're so – you’re, you’re, you’re good lookin’. Alright, let's start off, Felipe. Let's talk about engineering controls and some of the things we've done in, in that you've seen and that you're implementing.
Felipe: Well, um, first of all, we're following all CDC guidelines, WHO guidelines, and on top of that, there was a few other things we're, we're implementing to ensure the wellness of our – all of our employees. Uh, were doing temperature checks in the mornings to all the employees before they start working.
John: I get my temperature checked every morning.
John: So, I walk up… It's kind of like taking a – show, show the piece of equipment we're using for that.
Felipe: We're doing, uh, we're using a thermal imaging camera. So, thanks to these… So, this little camera, we're able to take your temperature and everybody's temperature at least six feet from a distance. So, we maintain social distancing at all times, which is much better than using these types of, of, uh, uh, thermometers, which you gotta get very close to somebody. So, it's hard to… you really can't keep social distancing with this, but we're able to put this on a tripod and, uh, plus, by being, uh, standing off, off at a distance, we're roughly about eight feet away from all of her employees when we're taking their temperature readings. And… Really nice piece of equipment. We can blog any high temperatures, it takes pictures, it's great.
John: Had we had anybody show up with a temperature?
John: No. I love always asking, “What's my temperature?” What’s going to be funniest is the summer when in Bakersfield, when we have some of these days that are 110 degrees, and in the morning you leave the car in the parking lot, you walk across to the safety trailer where it's all being done and it's already hotter than heck out there. I'll be curious to see what our temperatures are come the summer.
Felipe: It's going to be kind of – But, I will tell you this… We've seen some staff members that we've had some of the early employees, they'll turn on the, the uh, the heaters in their cars full blast. So, at first we did get a couple of employees that would come up a little warmer than normal. And after talking to them, it became my – well, yeah, they had their heater on when they – and they just woke up and it was just hitting their face. So, warming them up a little.
John: Well, the summer… it'll be a real challenge.
Felipe: Yes, it will.
John: Well, right on. Uh, I see door handles. Tell us what we're doing with door handles.
Felipe: Basically, uh…
John: Because there’s one right behind ya.
Felipe: Yes, yes.
John: We've gone with the lever type of door handle. The benefit with this is you're able to, you can use the back of your hand, elbow… You're not forced to go out and grip it. And, that's basically where I think that's a benefit. So, there was a few door handles that we ended up changing out to ensure everything's a lever.
John: All right, well that's, that's good. Um, all right. And, the restrooms… You've done some – you've done a big change there too.
Felipe: Urinals, toilets and break – and the employee break rooms basically added sensors in, so that way, there's less touching levers. Um, so it's, it's all automated and less – cleaner. The less items that our hands touch, it's better for everybody.
John: You know, you said the break room… Real quick, you know, you know, I've been, um, since then, since I haven't been traveling, I've been walking the yard. Uh, and, you know, I, I go in the break room. I like how we open up the big door into the break room… Collect air flow. Um, tell us about what we're doing in the break room that, that is a big change.
Felipe: The break room we've done mainly changes. Um, we have one employee per table. We have eight-foot tables and we don't have more than nine people in that break room at a time. We've staggered our breaks and lunches. So, we have different departments coming in at different times. We have our janitor coming in and cleaning inbetween those breaks. We have a sanitizer next to the time clocks, uh, plenty of soap, uh, plenty of, uh...
John: Do you have a picture of that sanitizer next to the clock?
Felipe: Yes. We have, uh, I'll have a picture of – we have these throughout the facility and we have it right next to the time clock, so since the time clock requires you using your hand, you can sanitize your hand run after using it.
John: So, are they sanitized anything before or after? Or both?
Felipe: Before and after. Both.
John: Excellent. Um, we must be going through a lot of sanitizer.
Felipe: We are, we are. Trust me, a lot.
John: More cost to our business.
Felipe: But, I'm glad we're using it and where we see it, by the use, we see it on the cameras. I mean it's, it's – the employees are following with her what they're supposed to do.
John: All right. So, in addition to this, now I – you know, air sanitizing, uh, for offices. Then tell us a little bit about that. We are pretty much small offices are getting small air sanitizers. Uh, larger offices or offices with lots of, uh, that have more traffic, they get bigger units. So, that way we're constantly cleaning the air in the offices. Um, we even have, uh, Ozium in some areas, so we take a lot of steps to clean the air. Uh, more frequent, uh, air filter changes. So, we do quite a bit on that, on that into to ensure the air’s cleaner and all of the departments, all the offices. And, that's all throughout our facilities.
John: Now, over in accounting on, uh, in Recycling and Demolition. Um, you guys came up with what I thought was very creative, uh, way to help, uh, K2 to be protected because she's by a doorway. Why don't you show us that?
Felipe: We have one of our employees that sits close to one of the hallways. So, we have people walking through there. So, to help her out, to increase our, our safety, we ended up having a piece of polycarbonate with the shape of the desk being put in, so it basically does a full, uh, front-end side. So, it gives them, it gives our employee more isolation. Um, more distance from everybody else.
John: She seems really comfortable with that as well.
Felipe: Yes. I mean, it’s one of our emergency exits. So, if something were to happen, we would have a lot of traffic through there. So, we want to make sure that that area is just protected.
John: You know, it's funny. I, you know, I, you think of everything and it's just, it's not natural to wear a mask. Um, I don't like, um, I have some mask I want to show because I, I don't, I'm not a big fan of this style mask where you have to put it on and then you have to take it off. Um, and you wear that. You, you're really comfortable. Do you know what I, I gotta tell you what I really like is I like the bandana with paper towel in it as an extra filter. And I prefer this because I could do this, cover up instantly and it just stays… I don't have to bother with the on and off thing. So, uh, you know, but, uh, the test I took on this was, I didn't realize this when I was wearing it, is this blow into a cigarette lighter right by it, you could blow out that flame or move the flame, you're not, you don't have enough protection. So, I like this. I like it around my neck, so I can use it when I need to. And, just, you know, for the, for the, for this video, I'm not using it, but, um, uh, I don't need to protect myself from myself. So, so let's go into the administration, uh, administrative controls, uh, Felipe, and, and go through the list. You've got a long laundry list here, so why don't we just, uh, go through that and see where we are with everything.
Felipe: Social distancing: everywhere, everyone. Uh, and all aspects of our operation. Uh, we've done a lot of steps to ensure that, that, that we keep it. Um, we've basically, some of the office staff is working off-site. Some of the office staff has been relocated to other offices. So, that way we minimize the amount of people we have in some of these workspaces. Uh, we staggered our breaks like I mentioned for lunches, time people come in so that way break rooms, lunchrooms, locker rooms, restrooms, there's less traffic.
John Sacco: Right.
Felipe: We had some more of the departments are using – are assigned to certain restrooms and the parts of the facility to keep everybody working separate.
John: I check all into this. It's just such a radical change and habits. And it's, it's interesting, you know, breaking the norm and there's still a little bit of that. Uh, I find myself, sometimes, um, um, before, before I leave my office, I don't have my mask around… and [inaudible]. It's just, it's not when I get up from my desk, it's when I hit the hallway that I remember to do some of these things. So, our janitor, what are they doing?
Felipe: Our janitor is focused on a lot of cleaning and sanitizing. He goes through the break rooms three times a day, does doorknobs. Uh, he is pretty much running around with disinfectant, um, disinfecting everything that he, that he can. Um, all that. From start to finish. Um, re – uh, ensuring that all of our staff members have a sanitizer on their desk. Every desk has to have one. I'm making sure everybody has enough supplies; soap, paper, everything.
John: And we run short on anything or we've been pretty good and well-supplied?
Felipe: We’ve been pretty good. We started buying a lot of our supplies, uh, as this was starting up.
John: And tell us… Okay, so let's go to the yard. You know, we do tailgates all the time where employees get together and discuss, you know, a particular operation and stuff. So, how are we, how are we conducting that? I've posted a few pictures, but what are we, what have you found and what have you, uh, come up with here?
Felipe: What do we do now is we do tailgates with a smaller group of employees and we keep everybody further away and, pretty much, you have to have one of the safety guys is going to be out there with a really loud tone and, um, pretty much speak it out and pretty much almost scream it out, so that way everybody can hear it. And um, so we're doing tailgates. We're doing them at least once a week. If something comes up that is, that we feel is very important, we'll do more than one a week, um, and just reinforce, reiterate what's going on, where we're changing, uh, what's our status, ensuring that everybody has supplies, if there's any discomfort, any suggestions. Um, so we'll, we're –it's been running really smooth.
John: Well with, you know, I always love our safety meeting at Christmas where everybody gets in the room, we draw a numbers and we give away, you know, TVs. Not really super nice, uh, gifts based because, you know, our employees really put in the effort to stay safe and our safety record shows that. Better start planning how we're going to do that because before, you know, before you blink, you know, we're May 1st today. So, ‘fore, you know it, Christmas’s going to be here and how are we going to do – the safety meeting with everybody 85 feet apart by then? I don't know.
Felipe: Yeah. That, that's going to be quite challenging. I'm hoping this is going to be done by that time, but it's, it's uh, we're, we're already doing, uh, we're, we're going to be working on our monthly safety meeting. We always do our monthly safety meeting with everybody onsite. So, we're going to have to do it in a, in a tailgate format. Basically go around with smaller groups of employees and doing…
John: I mean, everybody’s got a phone. We could do one gigantic Zoom meeting and we can pull, we can do the, uh, drawing from that.
John: No, we'll figure it out. But, you know, I said it. The small things that you look forward to now are different.
John: Let’s hope the doctors and the companies – the truck companies can really come up with a solution soon. Talk about equipment operators. You know, you got forklifts, we have material handlers, we have shears, uh, two-ram baler here at Sierra and trucks. What are we doing for all that now? How's the – how's that go?
Felipe: Everything has to be cleaned. Uh, anytime there's a change of operator, it has to be cleaned too. So, there's a ton of cleaning that we do. Um, all of our operators were given 10, um, disinfecting wipes, uh, and they will have them with them. That way they can do as much cleaning as they think they need and, um, they can do as much cleaning as they think they need, and um, that's pretty much the way we're handling it right now. Uh, we just hand out this equipment based on per employee.
John: All right. So, you know, that, that pretty much covers a lot of the things we do and I'm sure a lot of companies are doing it. Um, and maybe somebody, you know, seems like – what is the best trick? What are, what is your – the best thing we're doing that we came up during this process that you really felt provides an extra layer of safety?
Felipe: Uh, I think being able to just keep the employees updated. I mean, on what's going on, what are the changes? I think that's what really makes all of them feel that they have a voice. We're open to any suggestions. We're constantly stepping back and taking a look at how we're doing things and we're just finding ways of covering little gaps and make things a little bit better, ensuring we are keeping everything clean and, uh, and safe for everyone.
John: Right. Well, so looking forward, looking ahead. Yeah, we have the hot summer’s comin’. And maybe the heat will be a good, um, turn for the COVID virus itself, uh, as far as it goes. But, we're getting ready, you know, we're here. We're May 1st. We're getting ready to get into the hot season here in Bakersfield. How is that going to present a challenge, uh, with the current PPE and anything else? Anything that concerns you at this with the heat?
Felipe: A little bit because basically anytime you have a face mask, uh, and the high heat, uh, it, it will make things a little more difficult for the employee. So, that would be the, the main one. Um, it's not a respirator, so it's not as restrictive as an N-95. So, but it will, I think it will be, it will take a little getting used to when it comes to those surgical masks. Um, we, we've, I mean we've also handed out some of the cloth once out, but I mean that's going to be the main, the main change.
John: So, you're not, again, you're not real concerned. Now the N-95s, you know, they have that little respirator thing on them. Um, are we using those or are we able to get those or not?
Felipe: Uh, unfortunately, no one’s… I mean, we haven’t been able to get them. Uh, nobody's able to them. It's all being, uh, it's only for medical staff right now. Those – the government and medical staff are the only ones are able to purchase them. We have some in storage and, um, in case we need to use them, we are opting to use P-100s, pretty much half face respirators, full face, um, for any of our torching, any of our operations.
John: Well. All right, well let's, um, you know, I think as a company, you know, you've done a great – first of all, you've done a great job, you and your safety team. Uh, and I am proud of, uh, the… really everybody at Sierra – How they've really, you know, come in with a good attitude, really haven't had any fear… People: “I'm not doing that. I'm scared…” Uh, haven't had that, you know, we've told people, “Look, if you're not comfortable, you know, you want to stay at home, that is your right.” You know, nobody's being forced to come to work. So, that's a good thing too. Uh, you know, we look, well, we all look forward to not having this anymore.
Felipe: Yeah. I agree with you on that. And, and just like you mentioned, we really couldn't deal with all of our safety staff. I mean, Sergio Adalin, Ramero, they've been doing a lot of work. They're doing a lot of great things. Um, I mean, it's, it's – we're, we're having to do quite a bit. Uh, but all these measures that we do, I think are, are, are doing what we've always been naming for, I mean, it's just ensuring that we keep a safe work environment for our employees.
John: Excellent. Well, all right. That's, uh, we're going to give it a wrap here. Felipe, thank you for coming on. Thank you for the job you've been doing and really proud of you and all the safety staff, everybody here at Sierra and everybody who's going to be listening. I hope everything's gone. Well. Everybody's healthy, everybody's safe. And, uh, this thing will eventually end. When? We don't know, but keep your head up everybody, and thanks for listening. And, that's it for another episode of Pile of Scrap.
Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.