COVID-19 has had devastating effects worldwide, which saddens me greatly. Though as a woman who always see the positives – it may just lead to safer, healthier ways of working. For instance, social distancing, could see training evolve into new, ‘virtual’ environments better aligned with modern-day teaching, learning and continuous professional development. We will reduce our environmental impacts and gain time.
Attitudes, beliefs and behaviours may also improve as people become more ‘risk intelligence’, for many we learned a new acumen ‘PPE’ and we know know the importance of a risk assessment as the Government has highlighted its legal requirement to employees.
So where may organisations need to adapt due to this pandemic crisis?
Pandemics are more than just tragedies of sickness and death. Mass-scale threats, uncertainty and fear can lead to new behaviours and beliefs. The humans innovation and drive is fascinating.
Culturally, organisations and leaders should be preparing for a shift. Lockdown isolation may have caused re-integration issues and remote working will force a push and demand for further remote working. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the approach of a large proportion of workers globally could be described as ‘getting the job done at all costs’. This term implies they were prepared to risk their own health and safety in order to complete certain tasks.
COVID-19 might change workers safety behaviours. Why is this?
- Workers are becoming accustomed to taking more precautions with their health
- Media and official public health messaging is encouraging everybody to ‘stay safe’ and‘ protect themselves’, so this may have an influence on workers’ attitudes
- Workers might be worried about an increased chance of infection at the workplace
- Workers are more aware of hazards which could transfer from viral risk to everyday workplace situations.
The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic creates opportunity for businesses to address culture and a platform for a fresh start.
Workers may see employers’ attitudes change on their return to work, whether a positive or negative switch compared to the days before COVID-19 terrorised us. Workers attitudes towards certain issues may change too, especially towards illness and contagious disease.
With a more cautious workforce, workers may choose to take more days off due to fear or misconceptions about viruses and new viruses. This, therefore, may see a rise in sickness and absences, especially in the near term.
Should organisations have sickness and absence as a KPI and a detailed agenda item on the Board, they may need to account for a steep rise in absence, certainly for the first few months following returns after COVID-19.
With the safety of workforces becoming higher priority for most organisations, a cautious, vigilant, risk-aware workforce should benefit the long-term safety culture of all organisations as they may be less willing to take risks in all situations, avoiding the direct and indirect costs accidents and occupational diseases impose.
COVID-19 alone will not be enough get a small number of people to change their behaviours or beliefs.
A person willing to make sacrifices in their own daily routines to help others inevitably reflects their beliefs about helping others. COVID-19 has caused people to put their own personal agendas to one side for a while for the greater good, it’s wonderful to see the love and support people have given and continue to give to each other.
This may encourage workers to be more accountable for one another’s safety.
Behaviours change as attitudes and beliefs change. Meetings may be conducted remotely more often, as opposed to large group meetings. Social distancing and personal space is already an issue, especially for workers in large open plan spaces. Some maybe reluctant to interact socially with others, therefore causing issues around the productivity, teamwork and all-round functionality of an organisation.
There may be a call for extra PPE (personal protective equipment) as workers look to ensure the safety of themselves and others around them. Seeing workers request PPE would see a huge behavioural shift in some organisations as, before COVID-19, many organisations may have experienced workers reluctant to wear PPE. Don’t forget you can not charge employees for PPE!
People protection is always imperative, no more so than when returning from what we experiencing the last 4 months and will continue to for some time.
Risk assessment and appropriate control processes, need to be in place for returning workers to ensure workplaces limit the opportunity of further viral spread. Which will need to take in to account: phased returns, social / physical distancing, temperature checks and scanners. Screens/dividers and protectors being used to stop the spread of any virus.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Organisations may see a significant rise in the demand for PPE. Without neglecting workers and refusing PPE, organisations need to be sensitive to workers needs and the constant mixed messages. At the same time organisations need to ensure they are smart following long layoffs, as they will have been generating little to no income in some circumstances. Risk assessments should establish what controls can be used prior to using PPE, if PPE is required the risk assessment should determine what PPE is necessary for the specific job/task. Identifying what PPE is required for roles/tasks will enable organisations to distribute the appropriate equipment to workers.
Training will need to be adapted, certainly for the immediate future, and control measures will need to be adhered to until a vaccine is available!
By adapting or creating new policies, procedures and training/re-training will reassure workers that organisations have identified new and emerging risks from COVID-19 and are protecting them, as best they can, from contracting the virus. Training rooms can no longer be packed full with standard PowerPoint slides, which may affect the productivity.
Training will need to be adapted to satisfy COVID-19 measures and restrictions. Such as training numbers reduced to accommodate half the capacity of a room using our fast forwarded virtual world by training online.
Temporary workers will also need to be considered as a consequence of sickness and absence. With more contracted employee taking time off due to the extra precautions and anxiety coronavirus has caused, organisations may need to employ temporary labour to cover to sustain production or working capacity.
Health & Wellbeing
Organisations should expect to see a rise, certainly in the immediate term, of sickness, absence and self-isolation. Organisations may want to consider having Key Performance Indicators for sickness and absence, accounting and forecasting for such potential rises in sickness and absence.
Workers who have not directly suffered from COVID-19 but have indirectly suffered, whether through the loss of family members or close friends, may also need additional support and regularly assessing. Support for mental health and wellness, tackling psychosocial risks, will become more vital.
Occupational Health & Safety Business Support
Additional support may be required to help OSH professionals manage risks and assess workers.
Most OSH professionals will not have additional training or qualifications in such as occupational health. Occupational health is vital when managing health issues of workers which becomes important as some workers maybe returning may have directly suffered from COVID-19 and its implications will need to be managed regularly and consistently and recorded .
Organisations who do not have health and safety resource may need to plan in for the additional resource costs.
How LCS is Supporting in the Return to Work
Business leaders and managers will be scrutinised closely for their return-to-work processes. What they say and do will be viewed critically not only by their competitors, suppliers and customers, but also by their staff and their families. It is a sensitive time, and one in which very important decisions need to be made.
LCS offers businesses the support it needs to put in place the right systems and processes to ensure a safe and healthy return to work. Our expertise can help establish the successful in the future.
We are regularly updating, providing useful information on preventative measures, emergency planning and ways of managing and leading the safety, health and wellbeing of workers and our economy.