As the first cars rolled through the big white tents dominating the Regeneron parking lot, the atmosphere was intense and the scene was quiet. We all kept distance, wore our masks and were aware of our colleagues’ needs. It was April 2020 and the first day of our drive-through PCR COVID-19 testing program for employees who needed to be onsite to help invent a brand-new medicine for this still-mysterious new virus. My team – Regeneron’s Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) group – was navigating an uncertain new reality with sensitivity, creativity and dedication.
On a regular daily basis, the EH&S team uses our regulatory, public health and emergency response experience to navigate our constantly changing business environment and needs, while remaining focused on the safety of our colleagues and work. As a member of this team for 16 years – and now the lead for our non-manufacturing sites – I know first-hand that this requires a strong ability to adapt while applying a science-based approach to decision making.
EH&S applies the same principle of “letting the science guide us” as the rest of the company does in their quest to discover and develop important new medicines. In EH&S, this means assessing how science intersects with regulatory standards, and applying a risk-based strategy to prioritize keeping the Regeneron team safe while responsibly managing our environmental footprint and practices.
We have worked tirelessly with leaders across the company to provide an environment in which our colleagues could continue to do their jobs while – most importantly – feeling safe through our efforts to promote safety onsite.
This adaptive, flexible, responsive mentality is ingrained in everything EH&S does. Frequently, new scientific approaches (or outside public health emergencies) don’t come with predetermined regulations, so we use our scientific expertise and principles to guide how we apply the intent of the law or guidance to promote the safety of our people and ensure that our environmental impact is managed responsibly.
Perhaps one of the best examples is our response to the pandemic over the past year and a half, which has elevated the visibility of EH&S within the organization. We have worked tirelessly with leaders across the company to provide an environment in which our colleagues could continue to do their jobs while – most importantly – feeling safe through our efforts to promote safety onsite. As early as January 2020, we read the scientific crystal ball by tracking spread of the new virus emerging on the other side of the world and worked to get ahead of an impending N95 and surgical mask shortage. Our testing initiative was one of the first set up by a private business in our region, and it required determination and coordination in the absence of a blueprint, including working with Quest Diagnostics to set up our first drive-through onsite testing facility. We frequently reevaluated and evolved our onsite safety protocols based on the latest information and public health guidance. We worked with our Facilities team to quickly install dozens of hand sanitizer stations and a myriad of signage across all our campuses, increased the air exchange rate to allow the maximum outside air into our air handling systems, and provided face coverings. We limited occupancies, rearranged workstations and equipment to enable colleagues to work while maintaining social distancing. We also built a daily health screening system with our IT team to ensure colleagues knew when to self-declare, stay home and seek medical attention. Once COVID-19 vaccines became available, we worked diligently to obtain them for our U.S. employees. In Spring 2021, we hosted .an onsite pop-up vaccine clinic for our colleagues and their families, and by May 2021, we had administered more than 1,500 doses. For those who wanted to be vaccinated off-site, we provided time off to receive the vaccine and to recover from any side effects.
Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over, but I’m proud to say that our efforts have contributed to preserving workplace safety during an incredibly unpredictable and challenging time. As the world continues to fight together against this disease, EH&S will always apply our Regeneron science-driven, agile approach to promote the continued safety of our people and the integrity of the science, helping make our organizational impact even stronger.