Company organization charts have changed during the pandemic. They have made space for a new role – the Covid Manager. This new role was first introduced during the lockdown by the regional administration of Veneto on May 12, with the release of a manual of best practices to enable production to start up again in safety. With the agreement of the trade unions, this manual defined the new role as “the coordinator for prevention and control measures, acting as the single point of contact with the regional health authority.”
In a nutshell, an employer appoints a person from its workplace safety team to ensure the correct application of the rules and regulations. In many cases, this is the employer, the person responsible for workplace safety or any other manager in a leadership role.
Nordica-Extraflame, a company in the Vicenza area specialised in the production of wood or pellet-burning stoves with 250 employees, appointed Giacomo Ragusa, who had just returned from the sector’s major trade fair, Progetto Fuoco. “It was the third week in February when we came back from having attended an event with more than 80,00 visitors over four days. We were a bit concerned,” he tells us. A few days later, the lockdown brought the factory to a standstill which lasted until May 4. “During that time, we put a number of measures in place at the company” he tells us as the sound of drilling breaks into our telephone call. This was done under the guidance of a specially selected team: “As the Group’s CEO, my mother leads the working group. Then I am the Covid Manager and we called on the help of an occupational physician. We also have two employee representatives,” he explains. What is his role? “At the moment, I have to monitor and check that rules and traffic flow plans are followed. But I have to say that since our first day back, our employees have shown a strong sense of public spirit and responsibility. We all share the belief that one person’s carelessness can put us all at risk.”
The new manager acts as a coordinator, ensuring that prevention and control measures are put in place. This includes managing possible infections as well as arranging for the workforce to be tested and screened.
In the meantime, training and refresher courses are being organised for businesses. Although to date there are no basic requirements nor a compulsory training scheme for these aspiring managers, it will be their task to draw up a company plan to mitigate the risks of Covid and to put prevention measures in place. This includes managing possible infections as well as arranging for the workforce to be tested and screened.
These are not simple tasks in a continuously shifting scenario: “From one day to the next, we found ourselves in a very different world and, once the initial health crisis was over, the problem became the day-to-day management. My chat feeds are full of messages, advice, and exchanges of ideas for the best solutions,” Renato Fontana tells us as coordinator of the junior managers group at Federmanager (a national management association). This virtual word-of-mouth led to the creation of a platform called Da manager a manager (from manager to manager), a forum where questions and answers can be posted on Covid prevention.
Are there any questions about the Covid Manager? “Not many. I think that while it is a commendable idea, it is a local initiative that has put the spotlight on a real problem, and such a procedure is compatible with the national framework of workplace regulations.” In other words, the rules exist, and they should be followed so that other organisational issues can be tackled. “Things have changed a lot. Many people have been forced into smart working, which companies will prolong as they see fit. But we should be taking a closer look at the business model of some sectors and the inclusion of certain categories, like working mothers,” Fontana maintains.