By Michael Devers and Jim Tracy
The wireless communication industry we work in is as dynamic and fast-paced as it is critical. Over the past week, we’ve been witness to history as the dynamic, fast-paced, and extraordinary development of the impacts and storylines surrounding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have begun to play out. This is especially true here in Western Washington, unfortunately the hotbed of virus activity in the US.
The men and women of wireless, including Enertech Holdings’ member firms, will be up to the task ahead of us as millions of Americans transition to working from home and place an even heavier reliance and substantial new burden on the cellular and data networks we build, service, and maintain.
Our workforce is no stranger to performing their duty having to be situationally aware – often being called upon in the immediate aftermath of hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters to restore vital communications infrastructure. Whether in response to a crisis or to tackle the ordinary hazards associated with the challenging work we perform, we send our people out to the field in the best possible position to execute this work with the highest degree of safety. This challenge will be no different.
A unique characteristic of COVID-19 is the need to protect the safety of all employees by ensuring that one sick employee does not infect another employee, or a dozen, or a hundred. As such, at Legacy we’ve insisted that any employee who:
- Is symptomatic
- Has come in close contact with someone who has symptoms
- Has come in close contact with someone who has been confirmed with COVID-19
- Feels the need to self-quarantine due to potential previous or ongoing exposure to COVID-19
refrains from coming to work and instead stays home and immediately contacts their supervisor via phone and email for next steps.
In addition, as part of our commitment to safety, we’ve brought in dedicated cleaning crews to each of our offices to perform disinfecting, cleaning, and wipe-downs. We’ve also done our best to provide this same level of service to each company vehicle.
We continue to look at additional safety measures for those times when our field employees leave their more secure and less publicly accessible cell sites and must interact in public places, such as fuel stops, hotels, and dining establishments. Basic precautions include:
- Using disposable nitrile or latex gloves specifically for refueling and never touching any place on the face or head while wearing these gloves.
- Using gloves while performing all work duties.
- When possible, packing lunches or meals and, if necessary, using drive-through windows.
- Planning for all meals ahead of time as the ability to drive somewhere and grab something to eat while working away from home is currently much more limited
- Eliminating or severely restricting time spent in common areas (lobbies, dining rooms, etc.) as much as possible
- Not sharing personal items on the job site or after hours
- Practicing social distancing when in public common areas.
- Not waiting until the end of a shift to notify supervisors if you begin to exhibit symptoms. Remove yourself (in a safe manner) from the immediate vicinity of your co-workers and notify a supervisor
- As with all procedures and practices undertaken, including this one, never taking a shortcut when it comes to safety
As we write this, these are the basic precautions we recommend for our field work force today. But as mentioned at the onset, this is a very dynamic situation that is evolving and can change with jaw-dropping speed. We should all continue to monitor the situation and adjust as events warrant without overreacting and making a bad situation even worse.
If you continue to keep the safety of yourself, your families, and your fellow employees at the forefront of your thoughts and actions, we will all come through this crisis even stronger than when it began. As we heard from one of the folks on our safety call: “In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be QUITE apparent if we underreacted or did too little!”
Stay safe our friends!
Michael Devers is Executive Vice President of Entertech Holdings LLC which has over 650 employees serving multiple states. Jim Tracy, a former Chairman of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, is President of Legacy Telecommunications, LLC in Gig Harbor, Washington. Stakeholders interested in submitting an op-ed to Wireless Estimator regarding COVID-19 are requested to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: If your company has curtailed work or would like to provide information in confidence regarding COVID-19, contact email@example.com.