Complacency is a silent and relentless adversary. It impedes our ability to perform effectively, to adapt and improve ourselves, and to do things right.
With respect to safety, we strive to be free from incident, illness or injury. Complacency is the enemy of this perfection. It can lead to failures in workplace hazard identification and control, mistakes in job methods and errors in decision making.
During the past week, we experienced a new confirmed case of COVID-19 in our electrical pre-fabrication facility in Toronto. The individual is not seriously ill and all ten others with whom he had regular contact were identified, tested and confirmed negative over the course of last weekend. We made very commendable and rapid response to the news of the positive case. The shop was quickly closed and deep-cleaned and we are fortunate that testing for the virus and quick access to results are now readily available here in Ontario.
However, there was a breakdown in our established reporting process that caused a dangerous delay in the communication of the incident. The ill person reported feeling unwell early on a Monday to his immediate supervisor and was sent home. The worker chose to independently pursue a COVID-19 test and reported a positive result on Thursday morning at which time our local safety and operational leadership were notified. We are still investigating the incident and re-establishing our processes. This is a very worrisome and significant event that highlights an operational vulnerability related to people who move regularly between sites. Our fab is a busy and critical hub that supports multiple projects and many people in Southern Ontario.
COVID-19 remains nearby, as virulent, contagious and scary as ever. This pandemic is not over and one more infection is one too many. The possibility of a rapid and devastating internal outbreak is real. We cannot allow complacency to unwind all the work we have done to educate, prepare and protect ourselves. Ever.
As much as I have talked about COVID-19 protocols and the effects of the pandemic in my updates over the past two months, I have discussed in equal proportions our moral obligation as individuals and as a company to shelter our neighbors and our civic duty to support the common good. I have identified decency, trust and generosity as virtues that sustain humanity in times of fear and uncertainty. I have championed the values and character of WJ McDonald, an individual who cared deeply about helping others and protecting the dignity and well-being of all those around him. I have also applauded the courage, conviction, vigilance and earnest effort of B&Mers and all the good work that has been done by good people during the turmoil of the pandemic.
Clearly there is more work to be done on a broader and more insidious challenge to our community. Much more.
We are now dealing with the very upsetting events surrounding with the horrifying death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. This murderous incident has rightly struck a raw nerve with many people, unleashing days of anger, anguish and public protest across the United States and Canada. Like many others, I am saddened and disgusted by this senseless killing. Considering the February murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I am deeply disturbed that this incident appears to be the latest in a series of potent, painful demonstrations of deeply ingrained racial prejudice and injustice that still exist in our communities today.
This is not an America problem. It is a human being problem that exists in places around the world including Canada. Our society has made tangible advancements in eradicating systemic racism during my lifetime but we cannot be satisfied “with the comfortable vanity of progress”.
There is and will never be an excuse or justification for denying or disregarding an individual’s basic human rights. At B&M, we have always focused on treating people with respect. We strive to sustain a work culture based on mutual support, understanding and equal opportunity and to create an environment in which our employees can flourish. Our company has rules, processes and training related to human rights. We have ambitions and programs for diversity. But rules do not ensure adherence anymore than laws guarantee equity and justice.
I never imagined writing a message like this. I assumed that everyone could see the type of people that my brothers and I are. The type of family the McDonalds are. The type of company we are and the character of our employees. The unwavering commitment to respect, empathy and community that we actively demonstrate.
Herein lies the issue. Assumptions can lead to conclusions of convenience and to complacency driven by delusions of success. I recognize that B&M is not exempt from the issues of discrimination. Going forward, we need be more intentional about creating conversation about our faults and examining our systems, structures and behaviours with the goal of erasing the entrenched biases that hinder our progress towards true equity, diversity and inclusion.
I am committed to open and honest dialogue about how we can be and do better and I will work with our Regional Managers to create a plan to explore people’s experiences and expectations for our company.