Skip to main content
Origami’s Roger Audino recaps a recent presentation with Scott Echerd of Compass Group as he recounts the organization’s efforts to reopen, maintain operations, and meet regulatory compliance through the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Byline: Roger Audino, EHS Practice Lead

At the 2021 EHS Today’s Safety Leadership Conference, I had the opportunity to co-present with Scott Echerd, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Compass Group, the leading food service and support services company in North America. During our talk, we took a closer look at how Compass navigated the pandemic – from protecting its employees to maintaining operations – as well as the challenges and responses they had along the way.

Below, I recap our presentation and spotlight some key learnings from Compass Group. 

Setting the Stage

A global company, Compass Group North America employs nearly 300,000 associates in the US and Canada with 15,000 operating locations. Compass’s operations consist primarily of food service, but extend operations into other areas such as environmental services, food safety management, and event management. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, it presented Compass with enormous exposure risks. “Safety first in everything we do” is the central corporate message at Compass, and since the start of the pandemic, it has been up to Scott and a small team of safety managers to lead Compass’ Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) program, as well as prioritize the safety of employees, throughout North America.

In contrast to previous events such as the 2008 financial crisis, COVID-19 had an immediate impact on operations. In the Spring 2020, 40% of Compass locations – businesses, sporting events, colleges, and schools – were shut down.

In learning this, my first question to Scott was: what were your primary challenges and responses to the pandemic? In response, he presented:

  1. Re-opening
  2. Maintaining Operations
  3. Regulatory Compliance
graphic of pie chart describing Compass Group's Primary Challenges

Maintaining operations, regulatory compliance, and re-opening were three of Compass Group North America’s primary challenges at the onset of the pandemic.

Compass Group North America’s Response to COVID-19 Challenges

To address these three main challenges, Scott and his team had to brainstorm across departments and find ways to put organization-wide systems in place to accurately determine operational impact and ensure employee safety. 

“For something like this, you can’t rely on emails and spreadsheets,” Scott commented, “Since Origami already had our people and locations in a central database, it made sense to leverage the system to collect data.”

Read Next: How to Track Employee Vaccinations & COVID-19 Tests


Re-Opening During a Global Pandemic

Scott next dove into Compass’s approach to reopening. By implementing a number of tools in order to assess location status (i.e., what locations are open and to what extent; if there is a headcount reduction, etc.) he and his team were able to determine when to reopen while ensuring building, food, and above all else, employee safety. 

“Equipping each location with tools to reopen was essential since it would have been impossible to physically go to each location,” Scott indicated.

Operational Impact Questionnaire

Questionnaire to determine the operational impact of each location

Maintaining Operations During Uncertain Times

Once Scott and his team overcame reopening and had locations across North America back up and running, Compass next had to handle how they were going to track and manage COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks. With Origami’s COVID-19 solution suite, Scott and his team created incidents and investigations specific to COVID-19. They also developed a workflow that would enable trend notifications based on the number of exposures in a certain location within a certain time frame to comply with CalOSHA guidelines.

Example of Covid Exposure Report In Origami Risk

Example of a notification of exposure report in Origami Risk

As our conversation progressed, I opened a question up to the audience – how has managing COVID-19 impacted their safety organizations? 

Participants commented that safety was the number one item on the agenda and that as a topic, it wove itself into daily conversations. However, for others, COVID-19 management was a new responsibility for safety professionals to balance alongside their daily responsibilities, which they were not getting new resources to manage. In instances like this, Origami has observed some clients grappling with limited capacity of safety resources leveraging technology to streamline processes, which helped to cut down on administrative tasks that required manpower.

Read Next: How to Conduct Better Safety Meetings


Aside from COVID-19 exposures, there were other factors impacting safety at Compass’s North American locations. “Because of the labor shortage, we were concerned that employees would be overworked. We were also concerned there could be a lot of injuries associated with new employees.” Scott continued, “Luckily we had good training practices in place even before the pandemic, we want to make sure to focus on the culture of safety that Compass has created and continually emphasize that to both our long-tenured and new associates.”

Navigating a New Compliance Landscape

As a close to our conversation, we touched on the challenges related to compliance, especially in light of the recent vaccine mandate. Compass also leverages Origami Risk for vaccine tracking as well as reporting on vaccination rates. “Ease of use was an important consideration here,” Scott explained, “For example, we enabled managers to be able to enter both vaccination doses at the same time instead of separately so they can be as efficient with their time as possible and get back to their day jobs.” 

Origami’s reporting functionality was also an important factor since Compass was required to report vaccination rates to various client locations and activate and deactivate badges based on vaccination status.

As our conversation came to a close, we recapped some key learnings.

Origami Risk COVID Vaccination

Compass managers validate vaccination status and input vaccination data into the Origami database

Key Learnings from Compass Group North America’s Response to COVID-19

After opening our discussion up to the audience, the consensus was that COVID-19, unfortunately, is not going away. Rather, the audience saw the pandemic as a long-term challenge that businesses would have to adapt to, with new regulations and variants along the way. 

“You need a system to deal with this and prepare for future challenges,” Scott said in agreement with this group observation. In fact, COVID-19 was not the first time Compass leveraged the Origami system to overcome challenges on a mass scale. In 2015, Compass Group had utilized Origami to prepare for challenges associated with the historic hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico. 

As challenging as COVID-19 has been to organizations on a global scale, the pandemic has ushered businesses into being more receptive to technology, which will help companies adapt to challenges like climate change and other unknowns on a long-term basis. By having data in a single system, making use of automation, and ensuring easy to use tools, organizations will be better poised to achieve operational resilience as Compass Group was able to at the onset of the pandemic, and continue to as new challenges emerge.

To learn more about the Origami Risk solutions that Compass Group leveraged in response to COVID-19, click here. For additional resources and thought leadership on how to respond to pandemic-related challenges, check out our COVID-19 Resource Library or start a conversation with us.