Over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened consumer awareness around health and safety, encouraging the adoption of new precautions which better support the ‘new normal’ in today’s working world. Whilst we have yet to understand the long-term impact of the pandemic, it is clear that many of these new norms around safety and precaution are becoming generally accepted standards. There can be little doubt that businesses and organisations are rethinking their fundamental approach to everyday health, safety and well-being.
In all facets of life – at work, shopping, dining out or using public transport – people increasingly seek out brands they can trust. Intertek, a leading provider of Assurance, Testing, Inspection, and Certification (ATIC) services to industries worldwide, is a trusted brand that goes the extra mile in providing best-in-class health and safety solutions to the public. The company’s systematic approach to innovation reflects its commitment to Total Quality Assurance, helping businesses to build back better after the pandemic.
To meet the requirements of the post-pandemic era, Intertek launched Protek in 2020, an industry-agnostic, end-to-end health, safety and well-being Assurance programme for people, workplaces and public spaces. Supported by add-on solutions for audits, training, inspection, verification and certification, Protek helps safeguard people, systems and processes, facilities, materials and surfaces, and products.
Intertek’s Protek support is designed for all business areas across all sectors, from manufacturing to retail to public places. Its comprehensive suite of solutions includes facility health assessment, programme development, audit solutions for the prevention of the spread of infection, cleaning and disinfection oversight, post-cleaning verification, compliance reporting and certification.
Why was there a need for launching a programme like Protek?
In the wake of COVID-19, Intertek conducted research that revealed that most people did not feel safe about the lifting of restrictions and the return to work. Over 70 per cent were unwilling to return unless further authenticated health and safety practices were put in place and 91 per cent of those surveyed wanted their employers and organisations to take extra measures to protect their people.
On the other hand, more than half (54 per cent) of managers believed that they would struggle to provide acceptable health and safety standards to employees returning to the physical workplace. Across the consumer industries landscape:
- Only 24 per cent of respondents felt confident about visiting a bar or a restaurant once restrictions were lifted
- Only 27 per cent felt confident about visiting hotels
- 56 per cent did not trust entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres to have sufficient health and safety practices in place, with this figure rising to 57 per cent for airlines and 59 per cent for public transport
With this shift in consumer expectations and the ongoing effects of the global pandemic, business leaders across all industries are coming under pressure to implement and improve their health and safety standards.
In the apparel manufacturing industry, for example, the health of factory workers should be a priority:
Entry of Factory Premises – Factory management, employees, suppliers (trucks/loading drivers carrying raw materials), as well as any other visitors entering the premises, are potential health risks. Even bare hands or shoe soles can transmit a virus like COVID-19 from surface to surface.
Cutting Room, Design Office, Production Floor and Post-Production Area – Given the number of tools used by multiple employees through the working day, workstation surfaces and equipment can be the vehicle for virus transmission in this environment.
Fabric Storage, Circular Knitting Area and Washing Department – Many factories do not have dehumidifiers in their fabric storage areas, circular knitting rooms, or washing departments. These areas are typically humid, meaning that viruses can potentially spread rapidly from person to person.
Furthermore, most clothing factories have fingerprint-based biometric machines installed in their premises, and only a few have contactless face recognition machines or card-based machines. Due to the direct contact, this can pose a potential health risk for those using the fingerprint-based biometric machines regularly.
Clothing factories are just one of many areas where Intertek’s Protek can significantly help keep people safe with its unique, systemic approach to quality assurance. Central to this innovative service is Protek People Assurance, which additionally provides an on-demand, e-learning, and certification programme to enable companies to deliver essential employee training on key health and safety topics.
How does Protek help keep public spaces and workplaces (including offices, factories and warehouses in the apparel, textile, and retail industry) safe, clean, and hygienic?
As part of its audits, trainings, and occupational health and safety services for companies, Intertek provides COVID-19 related modules on the use of PPE equipment, safety, hygiene, cleaning and infection prevention.
In addition, the Materials and Surfaces solutions wing of Protek provides the testing and inspection services needed to ensure that materials and surfaces used are sanitized and safe for employees, customers and the environment.
Protek’s Product solutions deliver the assurance that the product was made with quality, safety and sustainability in mind. The solutions cover products through their entire lifecycle, starting from raw materials and components, through logistics and transportation, up to the final product’s use, disposal, recovery and re-use.
In addition to Materials and Surfaces, People, and Product, Protek also takes care of Operating Systems and Processes with solutions that provide the user with the confidence that their operating procedures are functioning properly while helping to identify and mitigate the intrinsic risk in operations, supply chains, and business processes. These technology-driven solutions deliver supply chain transparency and risk visibility to improve businesses and deliver more cost-effective processes.
Intertek is committed to helping other businesses and corporations ensure the health, safety and well-being of their employees in the workplace and of their customers in public spaces. As part of its mission to make the world a better and safer place, services like Protek help bring to life solutions the world needs now, everywhere, every day.