Stepping Up To Protect Fellow Colleagues Against COVID-19 in Plantations and Mills

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29 April 2020 | By Stephanie Lim

For Fina Rachmawaty, it takes some effort to get used to the new COVID-19 measures in the Plantation . “Every time I leave my house, I will wear a mask,” says Fina, Head Assistant of Audit and Certification in Musim Mas Group, based in PT Musim Mas Sorek, a subsidiary mill and Plantation in Riau, Indonesia. “Personal hygiene is always on my mind, and I frequently wash my hands or use a hand sanitizer.”

As mills and plantations are often located far from city centers, it is usually constructed with residential areas for workers and amenities, such as community gardens, grocery stores, places of worship, and clinics. Musim Mas also provides clean water, electricity, and free education for their children up till elementary school (more here). Its geographical isolation also plays to its advantage, as it is limited in exposure.

Nonetheless, as a response to COVID-19, Musim Mas has developed a three-pronged approach and guidelines to ensure business continuity and the safety of employees across our operations. Our guidelines support the Indonesian government’s strategy to combat COVID-19, including instituted measures to limit the movement of people. As Ramadan stretches from 23 April till 23 May, Musim Mas shared an additional guideline on safety measures to celebrate Ramadan, such as staying home for night prayers and Quran recitals, and suggesting alternatives to visiting family outside the premises, such as keeping in touch via messaging apps.

Within our plantations and mills, we have formed individual COVID-19 Taskforces responsible for enforcing the guidelines in their respective Plantation and mill. The duties of the Taskforce include:
  1. Checking the health of workers; such as ensuring temperature taking before entry and exit of the work zones, inspecting guests, monitor movement of employees and facilitate the transfer of employees who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 to the Isolation Centre.
  2. Providing support in maintaining the hygiene standards in facilities; such as setting up more hand washing facilities within the premises, educating employees on proper handwashing steps, disinfecting the premises, ensuring everyone wears a mask outside of their home, enforcing safe distancing measures and preparing the Isolation Centre.
  3. Enforcing precautionary measures against the spread of COVID-19; such as informing employees and their families on COVID-19 and Musim Mas’ guidelines, ensuring that in-person social activities are postponed, prohibiting reception of guests unless granted by the Board, and ensuring employees do not leave the premises unless deemed absolutely necessary by the company.
  4. Keeping an open line of communication with other Musim Mas subsidiaries and the Headquarters.

As part of the COVID-19 Taskforce in PT Musim Mas Sorek, Fina reminds her colleagues of good personal hygiene and social distancing, among other behaviors in the company’s guidelines. These guidelines are posted on bulletin boards, and brochures are sent to all workers.

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Fina, a member of the Covid-19 Taskforce, demonstrates the recommended steps in handwashing to her colleagues while maintaining a safe social distance.

Isolation areas have been demarcated within plantations and mills for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and those serving a quarantine notice if they have returned from essential travel. Located away from residential areas within the Plantation , the Isolation Centre is equipped with healthcare facilities and equipment such as patient beds, oxygen tanks, medical equipment, and PPE (personal protective equipment) for healthcare personnel. Workers who have to be isolated will continue to be paid and have their meals provided while they live in the Isolation Centre.

“It is not an easy task to get everyone to stay at home, wear masks, wash their hands frequently, and not to gather,” said Dr. Chrisdiansyah Lukman Hakim Saputra, a doctor from PT GIN’s clinic and a member of the COVID-19 Taskforce. “Changing a mindset is not easy, but with patience and continuous reminders, the COVID-19 safety measures would be implemented by everyone.” Dr. Chrisdiansyah is a resident doctor at PT GIN and continues to conduct regular health check-ups for workers.

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As part of a dry run to prepare for confirmed COVID-19 cases, Dr. Chrisdiansyah dons his PPE and takes the temperature of a worker who exhibits symptoms.

He also shares bite-sized information about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 via Whatsapp and social media to his fellow colleagues, to help them feel safe and understand the importance of the safety measures.

With the new safety measures, meals are delivered to residences, as communal areas such as canteens are closed. Schools and places of worship are also among the list of facilities within plantations and mills that are closed.

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For Fina, who has a five years old son, school closure means assisting with her child’s home-based learning after work, with the help of a teacher via phone.

“It is challenging to keep my family entertained. I stay home on my off days and spend a lot of time with my family. We would cycle around our yard sometimes,” says Fina. “We may all feel bored, but this is needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”