Aug 17
Novel Nursing
Novel Nursing
IF armed soldiers in combat fatigues are securing India’s borders from the enemy, the country’s medical fraternity these days is battling the great pandemic COVID-19 – in some cases without adequate protective gear that can save them from the infection. No wonder, these frontline COVID warriors are falling prey to the virus. Even the doctors and nurses at India’s topmost public medical facility, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, are unable to escape this highly contagious disease.
Keeping this in mind, a few days into the pandemic, L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE) - a vertical of India’s very own multinational conglomerate - took a unique decision! Under a CSR initiative at Vadodara in Gujarat, it decided to donate Robot Nurses to the largest government hospital there. This was to ensure that while patients afflicted with COVID-19 should get all the necessary medical care on time, the medical staff should not catch the infection. For, if the staff fall ill, this will in turn hit the patient services.
After a threadbare evaluation of the available robotic technologies and meticulous research, LTHE decided to make ready Robot Nurses that operate on Simultaneous Localisation & Mapping (SLAM) technology. Finally, on 16 July, LTHE, through a virtual ceremony, handed over three Robot Nurses - Sona 1.5, Sona 2.5, and ELI – to Sir Sayajirao General Hospital at Vadodara. This is the first such CSR initiative in Gujarat.
Dr Rajiv N Daveshwar, medical superintendent, SSG Hospital; Mr M Thennarasan, vice chairman & MD of Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation; Ms Shalini Agrawal, Collector Vadodara; Mr Pankaj Kamaliya, COO Gujarat CSR Authority, and Mr J C Rawal, District Planning Officer, Vadodara, attended the ceremony. On behalf of L&T, the honours were done by Mr Sudheer P V Nambiar (Head HSE, CSR & Sustainability - LTHE Onshore).
These Robot Nurses have many unique features.  They are equipped with spine technology for balancing. They can automatically map an assigned ward and reach the patient, detect obstacles along the route, be fully charged in just 2.5 hours and can perform an 8-9-hour shift on a single recharge. Sona 1.5 and Sona 2.5 can deliver medicine to patients, serve food, and spell out coronavirus awareness messages in Gujarati language.
ELI, on the other hand, is a guard, and will secure the entry gate, perform COVID-19 screening using thermal technology, trigger no-mask alert, record staff attendance and keep a tab on unauthorised entry.
Naturally, the Gujarat government officials, especially the management of SSG Hospital, are extremely elated by L&T’s noble gesture. This meaningful intervention will play an important role towards ensuring the safety of the medical staff and increase the vigilance in COVID-19 isolation wards during these trying times.
Aug 17
Helping the Periphery
Helping the Periphery
DUE to obvious reasons, when it comes to a disaster, metro cities draw more focus and charity - be it from the government or private entities. Correspondingly, such acts of charity attract much media focus. But what about smaller cities and towns that mostly lack adequate infrastructure to mitigate a crisis? Thankfully, there are some entities, perhaps limited in number, who undertake charitable exercises in such places and often away from the media limelight!
In addition to the overall corporate level contributions, L&T recently donated several medical and allied equipment to two government hospitals in Surat, making them well equipped to deal with the growing number of COVID cases in this Gujarat city. On top of the list is an Advanced Cardiac Life Support Ambulance (ACLS), costing several lakhs of rupees, provided to the New Civil Hospital – the designated COVID hospital for Surat.
This was a much sought-after facility in the times of the COVID pandemic, when hospitals often run out of ICU beds and patients succumb while being transferred in regular ambulances to some other hospital that has a vacant ICU bed. With L&T Hazira unit having donated the ACLS ambulance, the New Civil Hospital is now able to transfer critical patients, if and whenever needed, with nearly all the support system typical of an ICU.
L&T has also donated two automated laundry machines with dryer, three Karcher floor scrubbers and a sophisticated bio-medical waste van to the hospital. These will not only lessen the burdens of the staff but also help curb the spread of coronavirus and other infectious disease. The list doesn’t end here! Among the other items that L&T has donated are a Biochemistry Autoanalyser-ERBA XL 1000, three mobile X-ray units and one ultrasonography machine aimed at handling the increased flow of laboratory / radiological investigations. 
These equipment are in addition to the regular COVID protection kits and medical devices that the company has already donated. L&T has provided as many as 1861 PPEs and 7,851 N95 masks to New Civil Hospital for corona warriors. Also,75 tabletop pulse oximeters, 150 finger pulse oximeters, 25 nebulisers, 40 stethoscopes, 40 BP instruments, two laryngoscope and two ECG machines were provided to New Civil Hospital and the Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education & Research, a teaching hospital. 
Journalists – both who wield pen or camera - are among the frontrunning COVID warriors. On the line of duty to dig for information and keep the public informed, they often visit places that common people are scared to go to in during this fearsome pandemic. Taking this into consideration, L&T has come to the aid of the media fraternity. In the last few months, it has donated protective gears comprising PPE Kits, N95 masks or equivalent, gloves, sanitisers, etc. to these COVID warriors through the Press Clubs in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.
Aug 17
Salubrious Celebration
Salubrious Celebration
CELEBRATING with pomp and gaiety the anniversary of someone we love is not unusual. But turning such an occasion into an opportunity for making social contributions is rare. Mr A M Naik, the Group Chairman of L&T, had his birthday on 9 June. To lessen the COVID-inflicted hardships of people, the Construction & Mining Machinery business (CMB) of L&T in Bengaluru celebrated Mr Naik’s birthday in a noble way!
The Sparsh Ladies Club, a body formed by the wives of L&T employees, donated as many as 15,200 masks to the Karnataka education department. This, after the state government made facemasks mandatory for pupils appearing in any exam and the subsequent discovery that many students in government-run schools did not have facemasks.
Mrs Sandhya Garg and Mrs Nandini Pai, respectively the president and secretary of Sparsh, ceremoniously handed over the masks to Block Education Officer, Mr Krishna and the headmistress of Govt Higher Primary School, Vasanthnagar, Ms Vinoda. Karnataka education department, in turn, distributed the masks to the students of several government-run schools who appeared for the Secondary School Leaving Certificate exam this year.
Interestingly, the masks that Sparsh donated were made by the trainees at its Skill Building Centre in South Bengaluru. The Centre was founded as part of L&T’s CSR initiative offering an opportunity to the underprivileged to become self-reliant. With the rise in demand for facemasks, the Centre imparted training to several women in designing, stitching, disinfecting and packing cotton-masks that are reversible and reusable. The trainees have, so far, made over 70,000 masks. Mrs C A Kanthamani of CMB-HR, who coordinates the activities of Sparsh,  also conducted a COVID-19 sensitisation session for the ground-level health workers of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and distributed masks to them.
Aug 17
Managing the Migrants
Managing the Migrants
IT seems incredible that COVID-19 - a virus so miniscule in size - should have made such a staggeringly devastating impact on every single aspect of human life.  Across the globe, COVID has sent airlines crashing into insolvency, driven businesses to bankruptcy, caused unemployment on a massive scale and wrought widespread havoc in every direction. And who can forget the haunting, stark images of India’s migrant labourers wending their weary way to their villages hundreds of miles from the project sites that employed them?
In a welcome contrast to the scenario playing out at many engineering and construction project sites in India, Larsen & Toubro stepped up to the plate. At L&T, the lockdown did not mean a loss of livelihood for the thousands of contract labourers at its project sites. Before the lockdown, most of L&T projects, spread across India, as well as overseas, were running in full throttle. To bring them to a shuddering stop was a huge setback. Nevertheless, it accorded topmost priority to the workers’ welfare, health and safety.
Swinging into instant action, L&T’s top management took the decision to look after the contract labour, spending about Rs 500 crores a month on their wages, food, housing and medical care. The key to overcoming a problem is to stay a step ahead. Several steps, in this case. L&T’s initiatives were determined by several factors, such as the swiftly-evolving governmental rules necessitated by the dynamic situation, and the changing needs of the workforce.
As the saying goes, the more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war. The rigorous environment, health and safety (EHS) systems and procedures that L&T has had in place for decades now stood it in good stead when it came to the meticulous implementation of the stringent hygiene rules necessitated by the pandemic. It undertook large-scale sanitisation across common areas and key locations. Made regular thermal testing and medical screenings mandatory to nip infections in the bud. 
Accommodation at project sites was redesigned to enforce social distancing. Despite the practical difficulties involved in obtaining basic provisions for the workmen, particularly in remote areas, L&T managed to provide satisfactory meals. Keeping the workmen physically and mentally stable was critical, as was building their immunity. Various project sites of L&T undertook measures to ensure this. Distribution of vitamin tablets, yoga sessions, regular check-ups, health briefings, counselling, etc. played a major role in labourer welfare.
A close-knit group, workers are used to interacting closely with each other, so it became critical to impress upon them the need for social distancing, a task which L&T accomplished with success. In some cases, leaders were chosen from among the ranks of the workmen for better control and monitoring. To stall the spread of fake and fearsome information through social media, many project teams formed WhatsApp groups and disseminated authentic news.
That said, at no point L&T prevented workers from leaving for their native places if they so wished to; those who wanted to go to their hometowns were left to act freely. Take the example of L&T Hydrocarbon project site at the Guru Gobind Singh Refinery in Bathinda, Punjab. Around 200 workers, who lived nearby, left for home in the early days of the lockdown; the rest remained at the camp realising they were better off there.
But there have been occasions when L&T teetered on the edge.  At the Chennai Airport Phase-II project site, for instance. With about 650 workmen and 45 staff there, the project management faced a crisis when a workman developed high fever and a fast-declining platelet count. He was rushed to a hospital and got treated, and to the relief of the entire team the worker recovered to health.
L&T’s project sites vary in many respects, and the situation in them all was deftly handled using an empathetic approach and constant interaction with the workers. Several airport projects being implemented by L&T faced an added dimension of risk, being in the discomforting proximity to the hotbed of infection that any functioning airport becomes during a pandemic. In such circumstances, extra precautions were taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
Road and railway projects posed a unique set of challenges as they stretch for kilometres on end. The instant lockdown stranded thousands of workmen along alignments, with no way to return to base or leave for home. It was also difficult to reach provisions to them. However, L&T secured vehicle passes that would allow staff to relieve the stranded workmen. 
Comfort goes a long way in building worker morale.  The lockdown hit at the height of summer, and at a project site in the tropical state of Andhra Pradesh, over 1,600 workers were rehoused in a hostel, instead of their usual heat-absorbent structures. Pre-monsoon works and irrigation works could not be stopped without severely affecting the general public, such as in projects like the Mumbai Coastal Road, the Kachi Dargah Bridge across the Ganges and lift-irrigation projects. 
In such cases,  L&T put in place stringent strictures to enforcing social distancing and sanitisation SOPs, while ensuring that the needs of the workforce were met. Several of L&T’s project sites are in rural areas, and in some cases the villagers had misapprehensions of workers being the cause of the spread of COVID and wanting them out. To allay such fears, L&T held awareness camps, assured villagers of its efforts to curb the spread of the disease, and defused the situation. 
Not every country went into a lockdown. In Qatar, for instance, L&T’s Industrial Area Sewage Treatment Works project did not stop but continued without disruption in two shifts so to enforce social distancing.  Classified by the Government of Dubai under the ‘Vital Sector’, the Jebel Ali Sewage Treatment Plant project also kept running, with the utmost importance being accorded to hygiene, safety and wellbeing of everyone associated. 
Some overseas projects, however, were impacted by the pandemic, and L&T repatriated over a thousand workmen to India from Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

In keeping with governmental directives, many L&T project sites have resumed operations with strict SOPs in place. Various aspects of projects have been re-examined and changes effected in order to factor in the precautions needed to prevent the spread of COVID. L&T currently has over 900 ‘live’ sites, at which work has resumed, albeit with lower workmen strength. The company is making extensive efforts to get workers back from the rural hinterlands, including, in some cases, arranging for train, bus and air transport.
As COVID continues to spread but the lockdown eases, L&T is adapting to the ‘new normal’.This involves several initiatives to nip the virus on its tracks – mandatory masks, sanitisers, thermal screening, frequent wipe-downs of equipment and machinery, non-contact utilities such as water sources, staggered work hours, and social distancing. Separate isolation rooms are provided for new workmen. In many cases, L&T is arranging daily transportation to project sites so to avoid crowding the on-site accommodation. Regular pep talks are offered to boost morale of the workforce. 
L&T continues to stand by its contract workers despite the continued uncertainty around the future. It is gearing up to raise the bar with renewed focus, maximising potentials, consistently engaging with clients and offering them the best of technology and project management services.

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