A local food manufacturer who has been operating during the COVID-19 shutdown has been given the all-clear to continue, following concerns that physical distancing was not being exercised in every instance.
Reports recently surfaced that some employees of West Indian Biscuit Company Limited (WIBISCO) were worried about their health and safety because they had to work too close to each other.
When Barbados TODAY reached out to Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan about the reports, he promised to send in inspectors to assess the situation.
“Our officers visited and inspected. They found generally good protocols in place and good practice. There was one area where the distancing was not being adhered to because of the machine location and how it functions,” Minister Jordan said after the inspection.
“The matter was discussed and the company immediately took steps to mitigate the risks associated with the proximity of workers to each other. The slowing of machine was one of those measures. Additional PPE is another. Yet another measure is to be put in place within days,” he disclosed.
Barbados TODAY also contacted General Manager of WIBISCO Lorenzo Roach who confirmed that a team of inspectors from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Labour visited the firm on April 30 and examined the COVID-19 protocols which are in place.
Roach explained that management had identified the physical distancing as a problem even before the visit of the inspectors and had come up with solutions to address the matter.
In fact, he said the biscuit company had earlier written to Attorney General Dale Marshall inviting an inspection of the plant in order to assist management in improving its health and safety protocols.
“What we did was to say, ‘how could we improve; how could we be better’. So we had a whole series of protocols that we would have introduced to just make sure that we were where we needed to be. Following the inspection, there was the opportunity to fine-tune in one area. We completed that and subsequently, both the Labour Department and Health Department were satisfied with what we are doing there,” he explained.
Asked to provide more clarity on the area of concern, the WIBISCO general manager said, “The general area was that when workers work on the plant, there are points in time when physical distancing is not ideal…but we do have distancing less than six feet,” he stated.
“What we were looking to do was create some physical barriers for the plant. But to build physical barriers would take time. We were able to source the face shields option. We were able to source faster than some and were able to then implement that,” Roach announced.
“Our only concern was adhering to the strict social distancing given the design of the manufacturing facility. One of the things I would commend the labour office and the health ministry on is that recognizing that where there may be limitations, how do you mitigate against the risks.
“The use of face masks and face shields, proper hand washing and hygiene techniques, making sure there is frequent hand washing and staggering of shifts, making sure there is staggering of breaks and lunch time, all these things played [a role] in reducing the risks,” he added.
Roach said the final report from the inspectors was shared with management and concluded that overall, the officers [health and labour] were generally satisfied with the arrangements put in place to maintain physical distancing and sanitization while persons are in the workplace.