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Working amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Staying productive in producing sustainable palm oil (Part 2)


The agriculture industry is quite a conservative one – some might call it old fashioned. With the onset of COVID-19, many of our employees have had to adapt to radical changes in their jobs. Work from Home (WFH) measures and the rapid adoption of technology are just a few new elements to our work as a result.

You’ve heard from some of our employees who are currently WFH and how they are coping with their new arrangements. However, in an agribusiness like ours, there are jobs that still require employees to be physically present in the workplace.

Hear from our essential workers – plantation to refinery – and how they are making sure palm oil is still being sustainably produced, with added precautions. *Note: Photos of people without masks on were taken pre-COVID-19.


Septianus Harianja, Regional Controller
Indonesia
“We go about our activities in the plantation as usual, from harvesting oil palm fruits to processing them in the mill. But it is imperative that everyone realises COVID-19’s threat, so we disseminate the information by setting up banners in public places and banning crowds around employees’ housing areas. We’ve also put in place social distancing measures with our morning brief and fingerprint clocking practices. We advise our workers to take off their uniforms, take a bath and change clothes immediately after work, before having their meals. Housing areas, offices and public facilities are regularly disinfected once a week. We prohibit workers to leave their home after 9 pm to ensure their safety and that of the surrounding communities. Personally, I’m grateful to live in a plantation area instead of in the city, where I have fresh air and oil palm tree surroundings.”


Doctor Kurnia, Jakluay Estate Clinic
Indonesia
My life has changed since mid-March 2020. Together with other paramedics, we have to stay longer for duties in the clinic in anticipation of COVID-19 cases. Even during breaks, we do not go home in order to prevent potential transmission of the virus to our family members, especially when there are infants or elderly at home. As doctors and paramedics, we must maintain professionalism in all situations – even when a patient gets upset with us when we remind them not to have guests during quarantine, or simply to wear a mask. We have to be firm, for everyone’s sake.”


Lingga Buana, Sustainable Palm Oil Officer
Indonesia
“Working in the plantation, there are less changes than in the city. The challenge now is to make employees aware of the importance of social distancing, so our work is not disrupted. In my role, we usually do audits and certifications at the end of the year, around October-December. With the current situation we are mindful that they might have to be carried out online, and if so, we must prepare for that change in process. “




Tigor Sardion, Head of Refinery HR and General Affairs
Indonesia
“Interestingly, employee data shows a dramatic decline in the cases of upper respiratory tract infection and diarrhoea as personal hygiene receives more attention. This is a good practice to keep up. Working in the refinery, we run our operations as usual according to the regular shifts. The biggest change is adapting our behaviour to the newly established SOPs, such as observing the requirements for wearing a mask, washing our hands, checking our body temperature, using hand sanitiser and going through disinfectant chamber that we have built, as well as putting social distancing into effect. Since this pandemic reached our country, we have our paramedics and ambulance ready on 24-hour standby. We also have prepared specific isolation rooms for workers who feel unwell.”

Ketut Suyadnya, Refinery Operations Manager
Indonesia
“We’ll be able to maintain our operations in . With that in mind, we do our work with enthusiasm and dedication. With more tightened monitoring of employees’ hygiene and health, every day we take multivitamins the company provides, and we regularly spray disinfectants to our processing equipment.”



Liu Li, Plant Manager
China
“Ensuring a virus-free environment is extremely important for us in food production, because then consumers have peace of mind. Our efforts in disinfecting and cleaning have also been recognised by the municipal government. I am proud of our teams who have demonstrated an incredible sense of duty in this situation. All of us have not taken any leave, to ensure continuous food production, and have also donated Huafeng instant noodles to the local people’s hospital.”


We salute all our employees – on the front lines and at home – whose work in these trying times ensures a continued supply of sustainably produced palm oil for our customers and end consumers. United, we will get through this together.

Check out Part One of this story here. Feeling uncertainty and anxiety during the pandemic? Read and download some tips for your mental health here.

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