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Q&A: How Longo’s is coping through COVID-19

Simon Kaplansky discusses grocery store's prevention measures


June 3, 2020
By Marcel Vander Wier


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Simon Kaplansky, senior manager of health, safety and well-being at Longo’s in Vaughan, Ont. (Submitted)

In March, companies across Canada were confronted with an unprecedented pandemic.

Here’s how Simon Kaplansky, senior manager of health, safety and well-being at Longo’s in Vaughan, Ont., has been leading his team through it.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What specific measures did you put in place at your organization to protect staff?

Simon Kaplansky: We regularly monitored and made continuous changes as the pandemic evolved taking what we felt were appropriate steps at the time to protect the safety of our workers and the general public who shop in our stores.

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What was sometimes considered to be a crazy “out there idea” one day, turned into a reality the next day or next week.

We needed to remain as agile as possible as the events of the pandemic advanced to keep ahead of the risk and protect our workers.

Some of the measures we implemented include the following:

We provided hand sanitizer to our cashiers in our front end to use immediately after serving our guests, alongside the flexibility to leave their workstation to wash their hands on a regular basis.

We provided disposable nitrile gloves to our team members, as well as guidelines and instruction on safe use and removal of gloves.

We monitored Public Health Agency of Canada and Public Health Ontario updates and continue to follow their advice and recommendations. We have been providing daily updates to all of our team members through all of our communication channels.

We installed Plexiglas barriers at all of our cash lanes and service departments to protect our team members.

We implemented an isolation payment for team members who were required to isolate and paid for 14 days.

We sent messaging to all of our vendors, suppliers and contractor partners on our policies and expectations during the COVID-19 crisis to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. We are holding all of these vendors accountable for non-compliance.

What changes did you make to protect the health and safety of your customers?

SK: We implemented physical distancing guidelines at the checkout lanes and regular disinfection of high-touchpoint surfaces including PIN pads at the checkout lanes.

In some areas we have modified how we do business. We have limited the number of guests in our stores at any given time to facilitate physical distancing, made our shopping aisles one-way to avoid guests crossing paths in our aisles.

We have started doing “wellness checks” at our store entrances that include a pre-screen questionnaire for our guests.

We have also required that all of our team members and guests wear face coverings to protect each other and everyone who enters our facility.

Where did you look for guidance on establishing policy during this period?

SK: The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Public Health Ontario (PHO) have been our primary sources of information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have also referred to the World Health Organization and occasionally the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S.

What type of effect did the increased pressure surrounding health and safety have on you personally?

SK: I am very fortunate to have a strong network, both within our company and across my professional network, to support me in navigating through this crisis. It has been a big adjustment to this new (and temporary) way of life.

I have missed my colleagues in the office in spite of the technology we have used to stay connected, but have also enjoyed being able to have lunch (almost!) every day with my family.

This Q&A was originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of OHS Canada.