The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted on every person and every organisation in the country – including NNL. Since the outbreak started we have been implementing measures to protect our people, their families, their communities and society as a whole.
As soon as the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak became apparent, we took steps to identify any colleagues who were especially vulnerable and directed them to work from home, to minimise their risk of any infection. We also enabled home working for many colleagues with caring responsibilities and for those who needed to self-isolate as a precautionary measure. Since then, in order to reduce the number of people coming into work, in line with public health advice and Government guidance, we implemented a large scale move towards home-working for the vast majority of our employees. Prior to the outbreak fewer than half of our people were used to working remotely. We moved rapidly to purchase and configure additional laptops, as well as the infrastructure to enable these to be used remotely. We have also enabled over 100 desktop machines for remote operation, so that colleagues using specialised software (for instance our mathematical modelling teams) are also able to work from home. By the end of March over 900 of our 940 staff were equipped with the IT equipment to work from home. Many of them have taken up the offer to remove monitors, desk chairs and other office equipment to their homes to make this transition easier.
Throughout the outbreak we have communicated regularly with our workforce – through a number of special team briefing sessions, direct emails, a dedicated page on our intranet and a 24/7 phone line which has enabled colleagues to check the latest operational status of our labs.
With regard our work in our specialist nuclear facilities, we worked closely with our customers to identify a small number of nationally-important programmes, which are vital to the long-term future of the country – keeping the lights on and maintaining our security deterrent. We have reduced our on-site presence in our labs to those NNL colleagues who are either directly required to deliver these critical programmes or else who are required to ensure the safe and secure operation of the facilities where this work is done.
All other facility-based NNL staff are now at home – protecting both themselves but also their colleagues on site. Our drive to remote working has enabled the majority of these people to remain productive while not in their usual workplace.
Support to the community
We have donated a number of batches of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS where we’ve recognised that this could be helpful to them. One batch was donated very early in the crisis from one of our universities, where it was left over from NNL-funded work. More recently we donated a significant amount from Cumbria to the local NHS there.
We’re actively investigating whether we can produce protective face visors for the NHS in our Workington facility using some of our 3D printing capability, and also into the possibility that we may be able to produce hand sanitiser in our labs.
We’ve offered to increase our technical support into BEIS through the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO), to recognise the fact that a number of permanent BEIS staff have been redeployed to support the COVID-19 response across Whitehall. And we’re working hard to develop guidance for our people who may wish to volunteer to help in the community – particularly those people who may not be able to work as productively as usual from home because of the nature of their work.
Our supply chain
We have a dedicated area within our supplier area of the website here (https://www.nnl.co.uk/suppliers/coronavirus-information/) , where there is guidance for suppliers on how they can engage with us to discuss our ongoing needs, as well as links to a variety of up to date information on the support available for businesses through the COVID-19 outbreak.