COVID-19 has plagued our quality of life and the effects are global. The pandemic not only impacts our personal life but also our professional world. This is why both employers and workers need to act to keep the workplace and the public safe.
How can this be achieved? The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests some health and safety planning tips. For example, workers should limit contact with their peers and customers, stay 2 metres apart from others, and frequently disinfect objects and surfaces in the workplace.
With 2020 drawing to a close, we’ll still be enduring the effects of COVID-19 into 2021. Do you need to know how to plan for health and safety next year? What can Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professionals do to improve their 2021 health planning?
IDENTIFY NEW RISKS AND PROBLEMS
We now know more about COVID-19 than we did in the middle of the pandemic.
Implementing strategies, such as mask mandates and social distancing, can decrease the spread of the virus. But does this mean we will endure new risks?
RELAXED THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PANDEMIC
The biggest risk is people staying calm about COVID-19. People are sick of quarantining and avoiding loved ones. They want to go back to life as normal, such as going out on the weekends, visiting family, and eating out.
If your staff members are frequently seeing friends and/or going out to public places, you could risk a COVID-19 infestation in your workplace, infecting your staff as well as your customers.
But when it comes to risk manager planning, supervisors can’t track staff members’ behaviours outside of the workplace. All you can do is require staff members to wear a mask, stay socially distant, and sanitise hands as well as surfaces. If you can, require staff members to continue working from home.
If an employee gets the virus, require all employees to get a COVID-19 test and close operations until you receive their test results.
Safety planning for 2021 has a huge focus on employee mental health. Workers may experience anxiety going back to the workplace, especially if they’ve been working remotely for months. Others suffer depression when they can’t see family, friends, and colleagues.
If you’re planning on returning to the office, keep these concerns in mind for your 2021 safety planning. Find ways to enhance collaboration while keeping everyone socially distant.
If you’re in a traditional office setting, have all employees designate an area of the office as their workstation. You can still use digital collaboration tools to keep everyone connected. OHS professionals should also let employees decide whether or not they’re comfortable returning to the office.
It’s also important you educate your employees on mental health. This can be in the form of training, resources, or just opening up your office to discussions.
MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS WITH EMPLOYEES
Because of all of these issues, it can be difficult for safety managers to maintain relationships with staff members. In order for employees to abide by safety regulations, they need to trust the safety manager. This is difficult to achieve if you’re contact is at a distance.
This is why OHS professionals need to make their presence known. If it’s not a physical presence, a digital presence will suffice.
Email or chat with staff members regularly and update them on the newest COVID-19 regulations. Invite employees to share any COVID-19 concerns they have, to submit their feedback, and other challenges in the workplace.
IMPLEMENTING CHANGES BASED ON YOUR BUSINESS
Every business is different. That’s why you should make changes based on what type of business you run.
COVID-19 regulations change frequently, which impact frontline businesses. Since frontline workers work with the public, its integral businesses follow these regulations.
Your business has likely had a coronavirus safety strategy for months. Make sure you’re changing this strategy and it matches the latest COVID-19 regulations.
This is especially important for high-risk businesses such as restaurants and bars.
If your local area hasn’t updated COVID-19 regulations or their regulations are vague, implement basic preventative measures such as mask-wearing, restricting the number of people in your business, and social distancing.
While offices aren’t as high-risk as frontline businesses, many states are imposing limited gatherings in indoor areas. You may want to impose remote work requirements again.
If you keep the office open, have limited staff members in the office.
Monitoring employees who still work in the office can be simple, but what about employees who are working from home? Make sure they’re completing their work, are present during normal work hours, and are staying productive.
CONSULTING WITH PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS
Businesses aren’t only worried about relations with their employees, they’re also concerned with their vital business relations. This can include partners, stakeholders, investors, and more.
The best course of action is to always stay connected with these partners. Devote time every week or every month to meetings with your partners. Utilise technologies such as video conferencing to discuss vital topics in a safe and distanced manner.
When it comes to specific partners such as stakeholders, make sure you’re making timely decisions and are communicating them effectively. Use communication technology such as email, workplace chats, and audio/video conferencing to ensure they know all vital decisions and courses of action.
IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY PLANNING IN 2021
We’re still expected to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic until there’s a vaccine.
OHS professionals need to look at their health and safety planning to overcome recent challenges while still protecting their workers and customers from COVID-19. The actions they take depend on their business as well as their internal functions.
Businesses should also receive a risk assessment to know how to protect their workers and their customers. We can navigate your business to a safer 2021. Click here to learn more about our services.