Blackburn business ‘SMART’ about coronavirus testing

Published Wednesday 17 March 2021 at 10:54

A Blackburn business is encouraging other companies to sign up to lateral flow testing to help keep their workforce safe.

Apeks, part of the international Aqua Lung Group, has recently signed up to Blackburn with Darwen Council’s rapid SMART testing scheme.

Rapid result SMART testing is available for residents who are leaving home to work at community testing venues across the borough as well as for businesses in work places.

Local firms are encouraged to sign up to participate in regular, free testing to help protect their employees and stop the spread of the virus.

The local testing team will not only provide delivered lateral flow kits and PPE but are also available to support with on-site training and advice on setting up workplace testing.

Apeks employ 152 people and make breathing apparatus for both recreational and professional scuba divers.

Andy Atkins, Head of Health, Safety and Environmental, said the company was an early adopter of the safety measures rolled out to workplaces.

He explained:

We have always been ahead of the curve. We had a dilemma at Christmas because of the extended time off for everyone we wanted to ensure that our workforce was safe when then returned in January. So, the company purchased lateral flow tests and sent them home with every employee so that they could test themselves before arriving back at work. We also recorded an instructional video so that they could perform the test from home.

I got in touch with Blackburn with Darwen Council after Christmas so Aqua Lung could be an early adopter of the SMART testing scheme and since then the Army has been in twice to show us how to test efficiently.

We now have 10 people trained up as COVID testers we test everyone once a week. The whole team has really bought into it because no one wanted the virus to shut the factory.

Andy said the team can test 100 people in two hours, you get your results within 30 minutes, and it only causes minimal disruption to the factory operations.

He said:

We have Northern Soul music playing through the speakers and everyone on site feels reassured that we are taking these measures. I really appreciate the team’s effort.

It did have an impact at the start – but the way we operate is so slick now. The Council have been great and I can’t fault their support.

If you have the support of the senior leadership team, by signing up to the SMART testing you get free PPE, support from the Council, and you’re helping your business to stay open while protecting your staff. It’s a win-win and it’s the right thing to do.

Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, praised the company and its employees for embracing the SMART testing scheme.

He said:

Apeks has set the bar for other companies to follow when it comes to identifying COVID at the earliest opportunity. They are making every effort when it comes to protecting both their workforce and their business. I hope many others decide to follow in their footsteps.

To enquire about the Council’s SMART lateral flow testing scheme, visit the Council’s information site on SMART testing in the workplace.

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