Amidst the various state shutdowns we keep hearing from governors and other state officials that public health and the economy need to be managed simultaneously and you can’t have one without the other.
I agree, but not enough attention has been placed upon that belief because, for the most part, economic considerations have been cast aside. In most cases the response has been, “We will be convening a committee.”
Granted, the governors need to be focused on prevention and rectification of COVID-19 cases, but they shut down almost everything without giving much concern for damaging or re-starting the economic engine despite access to the considerable number of bright minds in various economic and health functions of the states’ sometimes oversized governments and the willingness of academic and business leaders (like me) more than willing to volunteer and participate in discussions about how to gradually and safely start the economy.
Trust the resources available. And, while doing so, trust those who run American enterprises, large and small.
You can’t help but feel that many governors have never really immersed themselves in the operations of the private sector. The dog-and-pony shows that they get at ribbon cuttings and press conferences have done little to educate them on the finer nuances of what actually happens on the shop floor or behind the scenes.
If they did have even a passing understanding they would know that businesses manage health and economic functions as a normal part of their business.
Take Confer Plastics for example.
Many readers of this column have toured the plant as members of local organizations or they went through the factory during our various anniversary open houses — a community celebration of our 50th will be coming up in just a few years. You might even have seen us on TV news reports.
While doing so, you saw swimming pool and spa supplies, docks, kayaks, and more being produced by very large machines and being finished by our excellent team of coworkers.
So, you know the environment in which they work and that should give you insight into the limitless safety protocols that are necessary to ensure their safety. The mammoth machines are powered by 440 volts, have tons of hydraulic pressure, and generate considerable heat.
There are moving parts and auxiliary equipment galore that require safety features and training. My team has to understand personal protective equipment, safe lifting and much more.
As the owner of the business it is my responsibility — and a power entrusted in me by local, state, and federal governments, and my coworkers, to make sure they are safe.
But, I don’t do it alone. Safety is a team effort.
We have an open door policy. Thirty people sit on my safety committee that meets regularly to offer ideas and solutions and follow-up on them.
The various managers train, observe and protect their teams. My coworkers look out for one another. Many take classes and read up on the latest safety procedures to understand how others put controls and training in place.
Every year, I invite the New York State Department of Labor in to conduct an OSHA-style inspection of our various worksites, a true public/private collaboration.
We invest a lot of time, energy and money in making sure our “I”s are dotted and our “T”s are crossed when it comes to the well-being of our team.
While what we do might seem special to those who have never worked in industry, most of our brothers and sisters in the US manufacturing world do things along those lines. And, so do other workplaces in other economic sectors, based on the health and safety concerns that exist in their workplaces.
No one wants anyone to get hurt and we — business owners, managers, workers, governments — all try our darnedest to make sure they aren’t.
It might seem foreign to governors who’ve only spent their careers in the public sector but employers do have solutions; they can manage health and be productive at the same time. They always have and they always will.
If employers are provided rules and guidance about keeping their employees and customers safe from Covid-19 they will follow them. They will also make their own internal policies and procedures that will further enhance safety.
We do such things every day. It’s old hat to us.
This is what we, as a society, need to capitalize on in order to get our economy safely back on track under what could be long-lasting concerns over COVID-19. This could be a cyclic or ever-heightened event that changes how we do things for the next two years or more.
Not doing anything is not the answer.
Trust is the answer.
Trust employers to make the right decisions. Never discount the abilities of those living the American Dream when it comes to innovations and adaptations in everything they do.
Managing the coronavirus outbreak is absolutely critical. But, so is getting the economy running in some fashion — whether intermittently, gradually, or in smaller volume.
Both can be accomplished quite well, by the same things that drive safety in our businesses every single day: care, controls, education, teamwork, and public-private partnerships.
Bob Confer is a Daily News columnist and president of Confer Plastics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bobconfer.