THUNDER BAY – Amid concerns over COVID-19 in Northern Ontario, NetNewsLedger has reached out to local transportation companies and organizations.
Kasper Transportation, a regional bus transportation company advises that since January the company has been stepping up controls and cleaning on its fleet of buses. President and CEO Kasper Wabinski tells NNL, “I know our measures might seem over-the-top, but the reality is this is about protecting our business, our staff, and our customers. Our company was one of the first ones to step our procedures seven weeks ago, back at end of January.”
On March 1, 2020, NetNewsledger toured the Kasper Transportation headquarters on Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay. The company buses were being cleaned and disinfected with the proper chemicals to ensure clean buses. Drivers were being instructed on how to recognize and deal with passengers who could have the illness. Staff was issued digital thermometers to test for passengers exhibiting a fever and any symptoms.
While that may have seemed extreme only a few weeks ago, Wabinski states it is all about taking care of the passengers on his growing bus service. Today with the announcement that Laurentian University has canceled classes, it appears Kasper Transportation was simply ahead of the curve in dealing with COViD-19.
NetNewsLedger reached out to the TBIAA on March 1, 2020. At that time there were no hand-sanitizer stations or awareness signs. The airport now states those measures are in place.
The Thunder Bay International Airport reports, “Thunder Bay Airports Authority (TBIAA) is actively communicating with all stakeholders to best serve our customers over the upcoming March Break travel period. TBIAA is also communicating with Municipal, Provincial and Federal agencies to monitor the COVID-19 situation as it affects air travel.
“As airlines assess the impacts on their respective businesses, it is possible that some services may be impacted. TBIAA recommends that passengers check regularly with airline websites for updates on their specific flights.
“TBIAA has increased the number of hand sanitizers throughout the Air Terminal Building. Cleaning frequencies have also been increased throughout public areas and awareness posters have been provided to remind travelers of recommended practices from the World Health Organization.”
Kasper Transportation Action Plan on COVID-19
- We disinfect all of our vehicles with hospital grade disinfectant every trip we conduct.
- We also are using the Aegis Microbe Shield same as Go Bus which is super expensive, but we managed to get it before supplies sold out.
– We have hand sanitizers available on our vehicles, and we have virus disinfectants in spray bottles on our bus to allow the driver to conduct any cleaning he or she deem necessary during a scheduled route.
- Stay at home if sick policy
– All staff that have any signs of any type of illness or flu are staying and working from home to avoid getting customers sick or customers sick with any time of virus or bacteria.
– We redid our schedule to make sure we only have 1 customer agent upfront at our office, and the rest are at the back, to make sure there is less exposure for our staff when working with the public.
- We are following CDC Business Response Plan.
- We have alcohol-based hand sanitizers all over our office and waiting area, and each bus has them.
- We stocked piled on these supplies weeks ago, to make sure we have enough for at least 6 to 7 weeks shortage.
- All our working space and staff have a container of approved disinfectant to clean their work stations multiple times per day. We have cleaning staff scheduled full time our at our depot In Thunder Bay to ensure the entire office is disinfected 3 times per day, all contact surfaces, phones, door handles, seats, tables, coffee machine, vending machines, but also the walls and floors.
- Behavior Changes
– We equipped all of our bus drivers and front desk staff with contactless thermometers and we implemented a policy to deny service to anyone who is symptomatic. The thermometer allows our staff to justify denial of service for anyone who is sick. We have a responsibility under the health and safety act, and the labour code to ensure our staff safety.
– All our staff has a P95 mask, I stocked piled enough masks for a month. Not cheap but we did. All of our staff have been instructed to use the masks if they believe there is a chance of exposure.
– We demanded that our staff limit their personal exposure on personal time, stay at home, not attend events, sport events, gatherings, avoid church, busy restaurants, shop at late hours with less people, If their family works in the health care business, stay at home if family members demonstrate a sign of sickness of any time that can be confused for covid19
– Our staff request all customers to use hand sanitizers and up their personal cleanliness like washing hands often. We have signs all over our office and waiting area education customers on the importance of washing hands and signs of the virus.
– We do have masks available for customers in Thunder Bay if necessary.
– We instructed our staff save their savings, and not spend their income on not essential goods just in case if our operations sized to operate, payroll would also stop, and we want to make sure they have enough supplies and food to survive 2 weeks in a quarantine situation. We are issuing payroll a day earlier right now to give our staff the cash to be prepared.
- Extreme Measures
- Our staff is willing to use Personal Protection Equipment during bus operations if necessary .
- If the risk to our staff and customers becomes to high we will suspend our operations for as long as necessary.
- We would suspend operations when the issues gets out of hand locally and at locations where our customers will travel from.
- IF we suspend our operations we will keep only minimum staff to communicate with our customers from home.
- Communication with Stake Holders
- We are in communication with Health Canada, MTO, and customers stake holders.
- We are monitoring the situation full time
- We are being proactive and taking extreme measures early on.
- We have every possible course of action so far to not contribute to the negative COVID-19 situation. We are balancing the need for transportation with public health safety.
Wabinski states, “If it happens, there is not much we can do due to financial damage. The responsibility will be with the government to solve cash flow issues. We recommend we do the same as the USA, suspend Payroll and WSIB contributions, to allow for more cash flow to stay in the bank during shut down periods. We also recommend the government issue directive to banks to allow bills, payments, leases to be suspended temporarily due to Force Majeure situation. I have cut back on all investments, and spending to quickly pay down current obligations to allow my suppliers to build up some cash flow. We also decided to sell out some of our less profitable equipment to eliminate obligations for insurance, maintenance, and repairs.”
“We also have stopped hiring, we also have stopped all of our marketing campaigns, and donations, and any social events we held for our staff. We have enough cash to be able to restart operations after a suspension. If operation stop, the ability to continue supplying payroll during a lockdown might be limited, so we definitely want to focus on our staff well being, taking into consideration reality of cash flow, which is limited in Canada for most business ranging from 30 to 90 days. Keeping that in mind we cannot force anyone to save their money, but we are doing our best to educate our employees and prepare them for a worst-case scenario.”