By Tony Mullen, Vice President of Operations, Zuellig Pharma

COVID-19 has underscored the critical role that safety plays in businesses. As Asia's leading healthcare services provider, over 350,000 hospitals, clinics and medical centres rely on Zuellig Pharma to deliver healthcare products promptly as they battle the coronavirus. Beyond maintaining supply chain continuity, we have the added duty to ensure the health and safety of our 12,000 over employees. This has been especially important for our front-line staff who, during the course of their daily heroic efforts, are provided appropriate personal protective equipment and educated on infection control measures. We need to ensure our teams remain safe and able to bring healthcare to patients who need us most.

The pandemic has shown that safety is far from static. It is a constantly changing function that must respond to the external environment and has an impact on everything that we do. Zuellig Pharma’s goal is for safety to be part of our corporate DNA and to make it simple for every member of the team to understand, embrace and exercise. We recently concluded our inaugural Safety Week, which shone the spotlight on workplace health and safety with an array of activities, generating much enthusiasm and many meaningful discussions among our employees. The theme, ‘Safety as a Culture’ served as a reminder to all of us that safety is not only about following processes and procedures but also understanding that everyone has a part to play in building a safe work environment.

Psychological safety improves overall safety

Receiving, picking, packing and shipping millions of parcels over thousands of man-hours every year means that risk is inevitable. Aside from standards and guidelines, near miss reporting is essential for a safe working culture. Each near miss reported is an actual incident averted.

Since the act of reporting is highly influenced by personal reservations and cultural norms, we encourage its practice with a reward and recognition scheme. A mandatory online learning module has also been introduced to help members of our operations team identify and prevent hazards in high-risk areas such as the warehouse. These measures empower our employees to play a proactive role in recognising and reporting risks wherever and whenever they see them.

Safety is vital for business sustainability

Zuellig Pharma’s emphasis on the safety of all our employees is part of our drive to place sustainability at the heart of our business. This is represented as a material issue titled, Workplace Health & Safety under the Nurturing Talent pillar of our Sustainability agenda and is crucial to secure the future of our organisation and that of our stakeholders while continuing to meet the needs of the present.

To this end, we have enhanced our workplace health and safety programme by developing a risk management strategy and pursuing the ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety certification, which sets out standards for the prevention of work-related injury and ill health. This not only ensures that our health and safety programme is robust and reflects current best practices, it also helps to reduce direct and indirect costs due to injury, lost productivity, and business disruption.

Ultimately, tackling workplace health and safety boils down to protecting our most important assets – our People. A robust programme with consistent and constant communication that involves every employee assures them that we prioritise their safety. We are glad to share our efforts are paying off as we reported two consecutive months this year with zero lost time incidents and first aid cases. In the post-COVID-19 world, our positive and constructive approach to workplace health and safety ensures that we stay ahead of the curve and ready for any challenge as we continue to make healthcare more accessible in Asia.