On April 28, we recognize World Day for Safety and Health at Work, an initiative to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. Governments, employers, and workers are all currently facing big challenges to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s good to know that working on our behalves at PPG is our own health and safety champion – Jen Kapp.
Jen is our global manager of occupational health and wellness, and her job is to help ensure all our colleagues are safe and healthy. She joined us just about a year ago but says it has been a whirlwind of developing relationships, learning new processes, traveling to various sites and evaluating worker health strategies.
This is a dream job for me. I love the opportunity of learning about many different topics and working with people from all around the world.
Her diverse roles mean she often has to swap between learning how to promote well-being and then being responsible for implementing it. She needs to constantly update her knowledge on the latest processes, innovations and hazards. She then works with her teams on developing creative solutions that help her colleagues succeed but, importantly, stay healthy at the same time.
Ensuring the Best Available Pandemic Protocols
The EHS team has been in the spotlight of the current situation and the pressure has been high for Jen, but she is thankful for the support from the whole team. This thanks also extends to the expanded global team, the occupational health nurses, and the analysts at our internal industrial hygiene laboratory, who have taken on extra responsibilities.
We had to change some of the ways we work and move responsibilities around, but it has allowed our team to focus our efforts on keeping workers safe during this unprecedented time.
She ensures that the protocols and practices we have in place to protect workers during the pandemic are the best available, and her team continues to alter them as new information is released.
Adapting to Working from Home
Like many of us, Jen is currently working from home. She lives with her husband and three children (6, 10 and 12 years old) and none of them has left home since the quarantine in her home state Pennsylvania, U.S. began. Although different from their usual routine, Jen’s family has quickly adapted and they are making the most of their time inside.
Her husband’s reduced hours mean he can help the kids with their online schoolwork. They also continue piano, guitar and dance lessons – remotely!
She takes her work seriously and so considers it important to have breaks, set limits and build in downtime.
We take walks together. I have been cooking, playing games and watching movies with the kids. I even started playing piano again.
Jen’s children are fairly self-sufficient but she recognizes how difficult it must be for those with young children who need a lot of attention. She advises asking supervisors about a more flexible schedule so you can spend time with children and older parents. Build time for family activities and opportunities to laugh together.
It is a valuable lesson for all of us, to take more time to enjoy each other. My three children have found that they love to spend time with each other. We have also gotten together with our extended family and friends on mobile devices for social gatherings, which we had not thought to do before!
She has one proven tip for parents: Encourage your kids to learn with online educational programs or entertain them with the vast resources on the Internet. Did you know that many of our partners have online collections that you can explore? Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci" in Milan, The National Space Centre, NEMO Science Museum or Junior Uni DigiTal offer captivating online resources to keep kids of all ages busy and entertained.
A Working Mom With an Unpredictable Schedule! How Does She Do It?
Try not to let fear and emotions drive your behavior.
For those feeling isolated, she advises staying in touch with friends and family and says setting a schedule to do so is essential. Also, don’t watch too much news as it can cause anxiety.
If you feel sick, stay home. Contact your healthcare provider by phone and follow their guidance. Give yourself time to get well before returning to work.
Jen’s mottos are ‘Work to your strengths’ and ‘Don’t get discouraged’. It’s important to be able to laugh at yourself and move on when things don’t go right. Last but not least, look after yourself. Find time to address your own health and mental wellbeing.
I try not to be too hard on myself, and realize that each day is a new day. That I am giving my children tools to carry with them through life. Every little bit counts.
You can find more information about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself on the internal PPG website and the CDC and WHO websites.