The past year has seen many colleagues across the Norse Group step up to take on new challenges beyond their day-to-day role, which is exactly what Carolyn Howe from our Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality (SHEQ) Team has done making a huge impact on our Covid-response.

With the onset of the pandemic, and the urgent need for increased personal protective equipment (PPE) for many of our staff throughout the UK, the Group acted swiftly to keep staff safe.

Getting the equipment in was one thing; a huge challenge for the Norse Procurement Team, particularly in the early months as businesses competed for stock, prices shot up, and suppliers struggled to keep up with the sudden demand. All set against an ever-changing backdrop on Government safety advice.

But the next issue for Norse was how to manage the ongoing demand within the business, ensure that everybody got exactly what they needed, and that they got it fast, ensuring vital services could continue.

And this was where Carolyn came in, setting up what was initially an urgent, centralised distribution centre at speed and which 10 months later now has an essential support service based at Norse Group’s Head Office in Norwich, continuing to support all of our depots and sites every day.

From disinfectant, thermometers, hand sanitisers and handwipes, to face shields, masks, snoods and gloves – staff have continued to be well supplied with everything they need to get on with their day-to-day roles, and managers can have confidence their teams are safe.

Colleagues describe Carolyn as a ‘real trouper’ and ‘never one to push herself forward’, just getting on with the job at hand and always working extremely hard. And that hard work has resulted in the distribution of around half a million items across the Group since March 2020, including:

  • 91,920 face masks
  • 302,300 pairs of gloves
  • 5,164 litres of hand sanitiser

*These figures only include NCS and NPS central purchases

Working in conjunction with Matt Dewsbury from Norse Procurement and Norse Transport drivers – who have delivered the kit far and wide across our Group – Carolyn remains the central point for the service. On top of the ‘day job’.

Jamie McDonald, Director of SHEQ, said he really wanted Carolyn’s efforts to be fully recognised, along with the support of Matt Dewsbury and the Transport team drivers.

“She is one of those people who puts her head down and always gets the job done. But this wasn’t the easiest thing to do. There have been some sticky challenges throughout this pandemic, and if you consider, looking back, we started from a position of nothing to having a fully functioning PPE distribution service within days, and which has stood the test of time.

“And that is not least because Carolyn – working with Matt and the Transport drivers – consistently looked for the best solutions, always keeping in mind our staff out there needed our support to remain safe, and keep services running. Different teams had different needs, and all of that they responded to, as well as Carolyn coordinating the logistics for deliveries.

“And she has done this with quiet resolve, while keeping her ‘normal’ job going too. She deserves the biggest pat on the back for making a truly important impact,” he said.

Carolyn said she has really enjoyed the experience and feeling part of the efforts to protect our workforce.

“I’ve found it very rewarding. It’s good to know that you’re doing something useful, and that you’re part of keeping people as safe as we can really,” she said.

“People have appreciated how much easier it has been to get the kit they needed and not have to trawl around trying to find things, particularly when supplies were very difficult to get hold of.

“Transport have been absolutely brilliant, being flexible and doing long journeys as soon as they could. And we’ve been lucky to have Matt Dewsbury liaising with teams such as Norse Catering and Transport, to get a feel for what they specifically need.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know more people across the Group too, and being more able to put faces to the names of those I only ‘knew’ from email before.

“So yes, it’s been something completely different for me, but very enjoyable and rewarding. I’ve learnt quite a lot along the way about PPE too!”