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EWEB Begins Workforce Re-entry

May 21, 2020

Graphic illustrating 4 phases of EWEB COVID-19 crisis plan

As our community moves toward recovery from the health and economic crises of COVID-19, EWEB is beginning a gradual and responsible return to our facilities.

Since mid-March, when Governor Kate Brown first issued state-wide shelter-in-place orders, only a fraction of EWEB employees have been working in the office or field at any given time, and under strict physical distancing and hygiene protocols.

For the past two months, the utility has been operating under what EWEB General Manager Frank Lawson calls a "RESPONSE" phase to the pandemic.

    • Employees have been working from home or on staggered shifts to limit potential virus transmission.

    • Some work has been modified or reduced. For example, planned maintenance on the electric and water systems was cut back to limit disruptions to customers who are at home more due to teleworking or school and business closures.

    • To keep important work moving forward, many public meetings and events have gone online, including our April and May Board of Commissioners meetings.

"In the initial RESPONSE phase, our focus has been the physical safety of the workforce, keeping projects moving forward, and continuing critical customer services," said Frank Lawson. "I'm proud of how the organization has responded to protect the health and wellbeing of the workforce and the public."

Now, as our community begins a slow and steady re-opening process, EWEB is preparing to transition from a RESPONSE phase to a REINTEGRATION phase. Since EWEB has remained open throughout the pandemic under modified conditions, REINTEGRATION is focused on a gradual and responsible return of the workforce to facilities, in the context of state and local guidance.

"We are monitoring evolving health and social directives, workforce and community health conditions, and our organizational readiness," said Frank. "If conditions improve, we will continue to reintegrate; if they decline, we will reevaluate, pause, or retract."

New pandemic safety policies have been implemented, including:

    • All employees are required to practice social distancing in the workplace (office or field).

    • EWEB workers will be required to wear masks in common areas like parking lots and conference rooms, and when working in close proximity (less than six feet) to other employees or the public.

    • Employees will travel in separate vehicles to job sites. 

  • Trucks, equipment, and workspaces will be disinfected at least once per day.

Similar to the State of Oregon's approach, EWEB's workforce will reintegrate in three phases that may take months. The first phase began this week, with a focus on returning electric and water field crews to full strength. Over time, we will reintegrate office staff who have been telecommuting, and the final phase will be a mix of a facility-based and remote-based workforce.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything for our community, except the need for reliable power and water at affordable rates," said Frank Lawson. "In order for EWEB to continue to provide essential services, we must reset and adapt our workforce to new conditions."

For everyone's health and safety, please be sure to maintain appropriate physical distancing of six feet if you happen to encounter EWEB crews in the field.