This is how Mäkelä Alu has managed the coronavirus pandemic

With a year of the pandemic behind us, we can say that we have managed extremely well so far.

No coronavirus infections, and no interruptions in production or customer deliveries. Careful safety precautions, quick action, detailed instructions, and shared responsibility have paid off.

“I think Mäkelä Alu is a good and responsible corporate citizen. This is reflected in our environmental and occupational safety efforts, and now in a whole new way amongst the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic,” says EHSQ Manager Päivi Venesoja.

“Ensuring the workers’ health and safe working conditions has been our top priority; the second priority has been securing the continuity of our operations and our customers’ operations. We have succeeded well in both,” says Venesoja.

Mäkelä Alu started taking precautionary measures even before the coronavirus pandemic spread to Finland and put together a coronavirus coordination team.


Weekly meetings with occupational health care services

After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Päivi Venesoja started having weekly meetings with the occupational health care services. The meetings are still held every Wednesday.

“We have constantly monitored the coronavirus situation in our region. The guidelines have been updated every few weeks,” says Venesoja.

The initiative of the company’s staff and units has been important. The rules have been taken seriously. All units were involved in developing unit-specific guidelines for taking breaks, for example.

People at risk have been of particular concern. They immediately received separate instructions from the occupational health care services. They were advised to consult with the employer to discuss separate work-related arrangements and safety measures.

“So, in addition to the general instructions, we have also taken personal instructions into account as a safety precaution.”


Contacts were reduced to a minimum

In practice, the most important measure has been keeping team sizes to a minimum and limiting contact between teams. This has allowed us to minimise the risk of exposure and ensure the continuation of our operations.

Other encounters, such as encounters between workers in different shifts, have also been reduced to a minimum.

Staff members must still wear a face mask at work, except when working among their own team.

Remote work became possible, and at times mandatory, for all those who could work from home.


Strict quarantine rules

Mäkelä Alu has established its own quarantine rules, which are stricter than the official national guidelines.

“Staff members are placed on paid quarantine if they have been in contact with someone who has been exposed to coronavirus,” says Venesoja.

“Contrary to official recommendations, staff members must also remain in self-quarantine if their family member has been exposed to the virus. There have been a few of these cases.”


Separate facilities for visiting engineers

All visits have been kept to a minimum. Mäkelä Alu’s representatives have not conducted customer visits for over a year.

Similarly, only mandatory visits to the plant have been allowed.

“Installations and maintenance have been reduced to a minimum. We have reserved separate break rooms and office areas for visiting engineers and maintenance operators who come to our facilities. They are required to show proof of two negative COVID-19 tests carried out within 72 hours before they come to the plant.”


Weekly newsletters and pick-me-up gifts

Venesoja wants to highlight the importance of communication and encouragement. Special thanks are due to Petri Mäkelä, Chairman of the Board.

“He made it a habit to write a weekly newsletter to the staff, giving them an overview of the situation. The newsletters have remained a common practice, although they may no longer be written every week.”

Mäkelä also came up with a gift campaign, which was implemented by the recreation committee. During the campaign, weekly gifts encouraged and brought joy to the employees during the most difficult months of the pandemic. They were usually local products, such as coffee, chocolate, or flowers. The purpose of the gifts was to cheer up the staff and show that Mäkelä Alu cares about its employees. 


The battle is not over yet

Venesoja wants to thank Mäkelä Alu’s staff members for following the rules, for their initiative, and for the good tips they have provided for combatting coronavirus.

“We are still monitoring the situation and taking precautionary measures against coronavirus. We are slowly reviewing our instructions.

Although the situation in our region has been relatively calm for a long time and vaccinations have started, careful compliance with the rules is still necessary.

“In May, the coronavirus situation deteriorated quickly in our neighbouring province. Meanwhile, the summer season is fast approaching, so we cannot afford to loosen our grip.”


Production Director Tero Suomalainen thanks Mäkelä Alu’s staff

In the autumn of 2020, Production Director Tero Suomalainen’s work at Mäkelä Alu began in exceptional circumstances. In August, planning for measures against coronavirus began as soon as he stepped through the door.

“On the first day of work, I came to the workplace and met with a lot of people. On the second day, most of our office staff switched to working remotely. Communication was handled via Teams meetings.”

According to Suomalainen, the company has managed well through the pandemic so far.

“That is all thanks to our staff. Coronavirus has been taken seriously and the instructions have been followed carefully. When it comes to safety measures, we believe that it’s better to go too big than too small.”

Inadequate measures would have had serious consequences not only for the health of our staff, but also for the company’s operations and financial performance.

“It would have been a disaster if entire units should have been placed into quarantine,” says Suomalainen.


Customer deliveries were not affected by the pandemic

According to Suomalainen, the company’s precautionary measures have been successful, and the pandemic has not affected customer deliveries in any way.

“It has only affected the way they have been implemented.

Now that we have had to rethink our workshops and reduce face-to-face encounters, one tool has risen above all others. That tool is Teams.”

“We have learned to utilise electronic tools. We will definitely continue to use Teams even after the coronavirus pandemic. It saves everyone’s time and streamlines our operations.”