“We used our time advantage”

Dr. Lucinio Bausela is Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Regional Manager at BENTELER Automotive in Southern Europe. He takes care for the health of around 3,300 employees. With his foresight, he ensured that we were able to work on resuming production right from the beginning of the lockdown due to the Corona pandemic.

First of all, a topic that currently affects many of us: The summer holidays are just around the corner. What advice do you have on how to spend our holidays in times of Corona?

You can have a great time anywhere, even on your own balcony or terrace. For example, on a mild summer evening with a good drink in your hand. We could go the longer journeys again when we have a vaccine. The world is not running away from us.

Regarding my own personal plans: in addition to a cool drink on the terrace, I will try riding my Harley this summer... short distances of course.

 

One of your professional tasks as SHE Manager is to ensure safety and health. In addition to preventive measures, there are emergency plans for all kinds of situations – from fire to personal injuries. Do you have such plans also for a pandemic?

Fortunately I am a medical professional specialized in occupational health. So I was able to assess what was coming already at an early stage. When the pandemic broke out in China, we were already alarmed. Here in our region Southern Europe, we used this time advantage to quickly, as early as February, order mouth-nose protection masks for our employees. Overall, we at BENTELER have been working intensively worldwide to receive appropriate protective equipment. Due to the international bottleneck regarding the supply of mouth-nose protection masks, we have found alternative solutions in some countries.

 

How many mouth-nose protection masks did you order?

About 150,000 of them. In the beginning, there were some delays in delivery: Those were turbulent weeks for a while. When the temporary production stops occurred in March, we had received around 1000 masks here in Southern Europe. Although at first there was less of hand and surface disinfectants than we had ordered. Nevertheless, we were able to work on the maintenance of our plants right from the beginning of the temporary plant closures, thanks to our quick response and measures. This way we are able to immediately start preparations for our production ramp-up – in a safe working environment.

 

What measures have been taken in addition to the known rules such as mandatory mouth-nose protection masks, washing hands and keeping distance?

We have implemented the respective local regulations in the different countries and additionally introduced our global BENTELER Corona guidelines (please see info box below).

But just as important as these measures is that people understand them and implement them correctly. Information is key: Why are we doing this? How do we do it? In the fight against Covid-19 we protect ourselves best by protecting others as well. Right now, it's important that we don't slow down – the virus is still there, even if it feels different to some of us.

For me, security also means certainty. Everyone has to ask themselves: am I healthy, am I sick? When you know that, you can act accordingly. We at BENTELER in Southern Europe have therefore spoken to laboratories in order to be able to provide sufficient tests for our employees if the public authorities are not always able to do so. In this way, all our employees and also external persons can be sure that every suspected case is investigated accordingly.

 

By the way: How do we deal with people who have to interact with BENTELER employees but are not obliged to follow our strict rules, such as truck drivers from other companies?

We try to minimize the contact. To do this, we have analysed workplaces and processes and redesigned them in such a way that personal contact is avoided wherever possible. Where this is unavoidable, we have implemented additional safety measures. For example, face shields that are worn in addition to mouth-nose protection masks. In addition to gloves, surface disinfection, distance rules, etc. So far, this is working very well.

 

All this protects people at their workplace. But what happens if someone gets infected in their private environment? What would you do if someone was tested positive?

Prevention is the most important thing. If we are disciplined and follow the rules, this should not happen. The check at the plant entrance, where the body temperature is measured, is another preventive measure here in our region Southern Europe. If someone should fall ill without showing symptoms, we would immediately separate the person in case of suspicion, notify the local health authorities and organise a test. At the same time, we would investigate with whom this person has had contact and inform all contacts so that they can go into self-quarantine until the test results are available. All this in consultation with the authorities. They will determine the further procedure. 

 

You are a medical doctor and SHE manager. Your opinion was also in demand when the Spanish automotive industry developed safety regulations for the time of the pandemic. How long do you think we will have to wear mouth-nose protection masks?

That will probably take some time. The virus is still here, we have no effective medication and no vaccine. The risk of infection is real. That's why it's just as important to keep your distance and wear masks now as it was a few weeks ago.

In summer we might be lucky because of the warm temperatures - many viruses are less easily transmitted during hot periods. But we all must not lose our discipline or mindfulness during this time. That is a little bit my concern. Because by autumn at the latest, when it gets cooler, infections could possibly increase again. Then we will all have enough masks and disinfectants. But if at that time people don't keep their distance, touch their faces carelessly and neglect hygiene rules, all the material will be of little use. Therefore, we can only win the fight against Corona together. We at BENTELER take the best possible care of our employees – and they protect the company by looking after themselves and others. We are one family.

 

INFO BOX: BENTELER Corona guidelines

In addition to the well-known hygiene measures like mouth-nose protection masks, washing hands and keeping distance, BENTELER has introduced additional guidelines worldwide. They also include, for example, closing canteens, avoiding business trips and working from home for our office staff.

We regularly inform our employees about our Corona guidelines with a broad internal communication campaign. For example, there are videos explaining the correct application of the mouth-nose protection masks. Or about changing behaviour when greeting each other. We also offer trainings on a local level.

In all measures, our top priority is to protect the health of our employees in the best possible way while ensuring production for our customers wherever possible.