The Covid-19 pandemic has made occupational health and safety a central concern for businesses. At Veolia, responsiveness, adaptability, agility, consultation and resilience were the watchwords for managing the health crisis. How can we successfully protect the health of our employees while at the same time ensuring the continuity of essential services - water, waste and energy – across the world? On World Day for Safety and Health at Work (April 28), this time on the theme of "Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises and invest now in resilient OHS systems", Frédéric Goetz, the Group's Chief Occupational Health and Safety Officer, explains how the company has mustered all its forces in this crisis.
In terms of occupational health and safety, Veolia has two watchwords: resilience and agility. With three response levels that depended on the situation in each country, except on those on industrial sites that were required to close, 100% of activities were maintained.
The first priority was to create a resilient occupational health and safety system capable of absorbing unforeseen threats that would also ensure business continuity: supplying drinking water, collecting waste and in particular hospital waste. In this way, the continuity of the services operated by the Group across the world has helped in tackling the pandemic.
All this was achieved without compromising Veolia's occupational health and safety policy: during the pandemic, the Group even reduced its occupational accident frequency rate to 6.6 (compared with 8.12 in 2019). In managing the pandemic, Veolia put in place: multidisciplinary crisis management; a technical approach including masks for all employees and PCR testing, on a voluntary basis, wherever it was possible, self-isolation accompanied by contact tracing; and finally, a human aspect, with psychological support structures that helped employees talk about their difficulties in complete confidentiality.
What we have learned from this crisis
"It is important to note that the crisis highlighted Veolia's values of solidarity, which translated into paying more attention to other people, thereby supporting a coherent and strong health and safety policy. If we were to face another crisis, we have demonstrated that we are capable of managing this type of situation. As a benchmark company for ecological transformation, we should capitalize on this experience to become more resilient and agile for future generations."