One of the few good things to come out of the coronavirus pandemic is your people are likely to be more safety conscious than they were a year ago.
Because of the highly contagious nature of the virus, safety isn’t something they can forget about even off the job. For example, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 face masks are a form of PPE people are wearing just to go out in public.
With safety that top-of-mind among workers, reminding them to use PPE may have been a little less necessary the past couple months.
Re-commit to a safe workplace
During a “State of Response and Future World of Work” virtual summit hosted by the National Safety Council (NSC), Michelle Garner-Janna, executive director of corporate Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) of Cummins Inc., commented that different areas of the company took notice of how critical the implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols was for sustaining operations and “we’ve re-prioritized some of our overall HSE work.”
A “Future World of Work” study by NSC’s Safe Actions For Employee Returns task force found that:
- Most businesses are unprepared for infectious disease risks
- Companies will need to have a defined emergency plan for infectious diseases just like they would for a fire, earthquake or flood, and
- Now’s the time to emphasize the importance of organizational HSE roles.
As the study’s author, Dr. Anthony Washburn of NORC at the University of Chicago, puts it, “Safety is important in all areas of a business, not just when there’s a crisis or not just when there’s a global pandemic.”
If your company’s leadership hasn’t addressed procedures for a future infectious disease outbreak, such as the new strain of COVID-19, it’s smart to take a look at what worked (and what didn’t) last year and proactively start preparing.
NSC’s “Work to Zero” initiative seeks out emerging technologies to reduce workplace fatalities. One example is using drones to perform inspections at heights.
Work to Zero’s director, Emily Whitcomb, said during the virtual summit that the coronavirus “brought an increased attention to health and safety issues. HSE was once more siloed and seen as having a more narrow function. But now HSE is really seen as having a larger role in business continuity. Organizations have an increased focus and appreciation for health and safety.
“COVID has forced employers to focus attention on new risks, and many are looking up the hierarchy of controls, with a re-focus on prevention. ‘How can we prevent exposure to the virus?'” she said.
Contact tracing apps and remote communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are just two of the ways the risk is being managed.
Some innovations for the workplace that have come along include proximity sensors to support physical distancing, HVAC foggers and ionization to ensure safe air quality (cost-effective alternatives can be found here), and touchless controls for transportation.
With more eyes on safety leadership, now’s a good time to address any other safety issues in your workplace. It might be worth checking NSC Work to Zero’s top hazardous situations and their contributing factors to see if there are any other areas that could use improvement.