Providing a safe environment for harvest workers will be key to retaining a motivated team.

•  • @SafetyRev

Never have we approached a harvest period with more uncertainty over the availability and sourcing of harvest staff. The induction, training and supervision of staff is always challenging to manage. This is heightened by the threat of Covid-19 and the need to comply with ever changing guidance around social distancing and safe working. 

The infamous ‘R’ number will apparently drive future decisions in relation to any restrictions of movement or activity and consequently on business operations. History suggests that this disease will return with a second and possibly a third wave, that it will mutate and that the second wave potentially mutated will be more severe than the first.

The focus over the last few weeks has been on protecting the well being of those to whom we as business leaders have within our care whilst they are working with us. 

However, your attention will increasingly become centred on getting the harvest in and maximising the quality and commercial performance of the crop. A key enabler of that will be the ability to keep the team fit and well and to avoid an outbreak of Covid-19 within the team since this diminishes their capability and prevents you achieving that ultimate goal of a crop harvested and safely in the tanks. 

For Fred Langdale of Exton Park, developing and honing a safety management system was a key objective when he approached Safety Revolution, an independent vineyard safety and well-being consultancy, in 2019 who conducted an audit. 

He said: “This new system has provided a platform from which to manage Covid-19 and prepare to welcome our harvest team and give them confidence that their work with us will be as safe as possible. As well as providing the necessary documentation the Safety Revolution work has delivered better induction and training plans and provided us with the means of simplifying and systemising our approach. It’s basically much easier to use.”

Oliver Dale, MD of Safety Revolution has worked closely with the Exton team to develop the system. “There are areas where good safety management can also have a very tangible benefit to the wider commercial considerations. 

“The key to preventing any loss of capacity evolving into such a scenario and to having a plan if challenged is to be able to demonstrate that you have taken all the steps that you can so far as is reasonably practicable to prevent those workers from becoming infected.

“Early action is important and we have recently delivered to our vineyard clients a series of draft risk assessments to enable them to work with their teams in a positive and caring way. We continue to monitor the situation and update and reissue those documents as and when there are material changes.”

He added: “Additional measures that you should keep under regular review include ensuring that you or your managers are giving all employees clear guidance, with regular updates, on the correct use of equipment, social distancing, basic hygiene and segregation of activities wherever possible. These communications should be regularly refreshed and recorded. It will be important to be able to prove that these basic controls have been implemented effectively and daily disciplines maintained even through periods of peak work load such as harvest.”

Safety Revolution are also launching a new App that will enable each team member to record those basic daily checks in a quick and effective way. This solution will be made available to all vineyard clients in the next few weeks in order that it is up and running before harvest. 

Fred Langdale added that he is looking forward to using the App during harvest as it will allow them to act faster if one worker displays Covid-19 symptoms.