Choosing peace of mind during a pandemic: Taking a look at Courchesne-Larose


When the pandemic started in March 2020, most of us retreated to the safety of our homes. But Courchesne-Larose could not afford this luxury. Being one of the most significant fresh fruit and vegetable distributor in Canada, their participation was necessary for the supply chain. Not only were they unable to shutter their operations, but they also bore the responsibility of their staff and their wellbeing. 

FM headshot


We sat down with Frederic Monete, Vice President of Operations at Courchesne Larose to understand how the food distributor stayed resilient in face of this mammoth challenge without compromising on worker safety.


1. When the pandemic first hit, could you tell us about your experience? What were some of the initial safety measures that you implemented at your facility?


March was really chaotic. We were still in the dark regarding several aspects of the disease itself. We know a lot more about COVID now. Back then, it was really important for us to continue operations uninterrupted since the demand for produce distribution shot up. It was important for us to take implement safety measures to not only ensure business continuity but also to assure our employees that they are safe at work and assuage any concerns.


We adopted a holistic approach to employee safety. Some of the measures we adopted were:

  • Mandatory face shields and masks

  • Individual cubicles for offices

  • Paused customer and supplier visits to the facility

  • Automated temperature screenings

  • 24-hour sanitization crew

Even with these measures in place, there was a lingering concern that if we’ll be able to react swiftly once it hits us. At that time, several factories were shutting down and we didn’t it to happen to us too. We had to make sure we were doing everything in our power to be prepared.



2. What made you lean towards an automated contact tracing system?

I remember discussing with our internal covid-committee at the time if anyone was aware of a solution that would help us quickly identify any risks. And no one believed such technology existed. Thankfully, Safeteams contacted us and I was excited to see the technology in play. The outbreak works fast, so our measures should also be designed for rapid response. It was a miracle solution.

3. Could you tell us more about the deployment process and how it went for you?


Yes, absolutely. I was in charge of the deployment and I am probably the worst person to lead this change; I am not good with computers or technology. But, the support from Saafeteams was top-notch. We implemented the solution in a facility in 4 hours for 500 employees, which was quite fast, despite my limitations. I received quality assistance from your support team.


4. How did you overcome the challenges of implementing a solution like this with your employees? How did you communicate this change to get everyone on board?

The trick lies in communicating the technology and how it actually works. We were transparent with our employees and they trust us. It was a good start for us. A few employees had some questions regarding traceability and the impact of technology on their health. But we were able to assuage those concerns. In one instance, I contacted Safeteams and within 24 hours we had the answers needed to reassure our employees. The truth is everyone was worried. But when the employees saw that that the company was taking proactive steps to protect them, they were on board. 


5. You identified a positive case at your facility. Could you walk us through the next steps you took as a company to prevent an outbreak?

We had four instances where we needed to use contact tracing to prevent a facility-wide outbreak. We used Safeteams to pull the contact tracing reports. It takes about 15 seconds to get this data. We inputted the name of the affected individual to identify everyone they had been in touch with. If any of these interactions lasted more than 10 minutes at a time or a cumulative of 30 minutes in the past 14 days, we passed on the information to our HR department and the direct supervisor of the employee. 

After checking in with the at-risk employees, we would advise them to get tested. In the four instances where we used this method, we asked a total of nine people to get tested. Fortunately, all of these people tested negative in 24 or 48 hours and were able to resume work.

Contact tracing was helpful because we didn't need to send all the shift workers to get tested. We were able to narrow down the at-risk employees through data. That way, we were able to also maintain productivity at the facility, without compromising on worker safety. 

It gives me peace of mind to know that we can isolate at-risk individuals quickly before the entire facility is contaminated.


6. How do you foresee sanitation standards evolving in 2021? Would you say that our reality changed forever? 

I think it has changed. We don’t know how long we are going to be in this pandemic and even then, there is a chance that there might be another. 

So for now, we’ll continue using Safeteams. If and when we do go back to normal, we might put a pause on the technology but it is helpful to know that the tech can be deployed quickly and our team is already familiar with how it works and its benefits. 

At the start of the pandemic, we weren’t aware of this technology. We’ll not be in that situation again. It’s a reliable tool to fall back on. 

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