Acknowledging the impacts of COVID-19

National Safe Work Month is upon us and the theme is “Work Health and Safety Through COVID-19”. This year workplaces have had to quickly adapt their practices and procedures to reduce the WHS risks from COVID-19 and to manage the psychological effects of the pandemic on workers. Each week throughout the month, the focus will be shifting between vital aspects of the workplace to encourage discussion and minimise the health and safety risks posed by COVID-19. 

Below we have given our take on each of the topics along with suggestions for how you can champion each theme in your organisation. We do want to add that while this year’s theme is COVID landscape, it is important to stay proactive with your usual health and safety initiatives as it is still business as usual and we need to continue to do our part to protect our workers from every day preventable workplace injuries.

Week 1: Navigating Mental Health Through COVID-19

As we all know, over the last 8 or so months we have all been presented with a plethora of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be the result of social restrictions, change in routines or stress from uncertainty – one thing that has suffered immensely is the mental health of many Australians. In fact, early research has confirmed a decline in the mental health of the Australian population and it is anticipated that there will be a further increase in mental health problems over the next 6 months to 2 years.

As employer’s it is important that we keep mental health at the forefront of our minds, to ensure that we are supporting our team members as effectively as we can. Below we have highlighted a couple of suggestions for how you can work with this week’s theme and ensure you have the appropriate processes initiated to check in on your team.

  • If you haven’t done one recently, we highly recommend that you do a pulse check on the mental health and wellbeing of your team. So much has happened this year, so initiating a wellbeing check throughout this month would be rather timely.
  • When working in geographically spread locations, it’s harder to gauge how employees are really doing, that’s why it’s important having multiple ways to gather information. A simple way to check in on your team effectively is to add a wellbeing question into your everyday COVID-19 screening questions.
  • Consider re-promoting or re-advertising your EAP services. Nearly everyone in Australia and New Zealand has been impacted by COVID-19, so it’s important that your team know where to go if they need support and your EAP program is a great place to start.

Week 2: Using Data to Make Workplaces Safer

We’re not surprised that using data to make workplaces safer has been incorporated into this year’s theme. When it comes to the future of health and safety, we believe that technology has a major role to play. When meaningful data is collated, analysed and then used to make real changes, it is able to assist businesses to make better business decisions.

Our suggestions to maximise this week’s theme are:

  • Use data to analyse trends in the workplace. There are many ways this could be achieved, for instance you could fit your team members with social distancing bracelets. By doing so you will be able to pinpoint potential hotspots and risk areas which will provide you with the opportunity to reevaluated your policies and processes to create a safer space for everyone.
  • Of course it’s not all about COVID when it comes to health and safety and something that is always forefront of our minds is injury prevention. Take musculoskeletal injures for instance. By using technology and analysing where the injuries are coming from (this includes job site, job type, equipment used, and repetition, frequency, duration of task) you are able to deep dive into the stats and implement the necessary changes to produce real results.

Week 3: A Safe And Healthy Workspace Is For Everyone

Whether you’re an employee, employer or business owner, everyone has the right to be and feel safe at work. So whether you have people on the floor in the warehouse, working in the office, or working from home, it is imperative that you provide them with a safe and healthy workspace.

Our suggestions to maximise this week’s theme are:

  • Ensuring that you have physical reminders around the workspace means that your team members will be conscious of others and their own safety throughout the day. This could include markings on the floor to ensure safe social distancing and posters around the office highlighting healthy hygiene practices and so forth.
  • Be proactive by ensuring that your internal policies and processes are externally scrutinized – getting another perspective is never a bad idea.
  • Given the current landscape surrounding COVID, you, or someone you know, is no doubt working from home. It’s important to remember that even if your employees are working from home, it’s your business’s responsibility to ensure a safe working space for them. If you haven’t already, consider getting a virtual ergonomic assessment completed to ensure optimal working postures, ergonomic work practices and correct workstation set-up.

Week 4: Keeping WHS A Priority

And what a perfect topic to round up National Safe Work Month… Work health and safety should always be a priority in any organisation. See our top suggestions below for how you can keep work health and safety a priority in your workplace while keeping COVID-19 front of mind as well.

  • Add work health and safety as an agenda item to all of your manager and board meetings. This will ensure that it remains a constant priority and not just something you talk about every now and then.
  • When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, the thought of an outbreak in the workplace is something that nobody wishes upon anyone. As we have heard from businesses who have unfortunately been through one (and even multiple outbreaks), being prepared and initiating the policies and processes immediately and effectively, is absolutely everything when it comes to minimsing the impact and getting back up and running as quick as possible. To ensure that you are adequately prepared if the situation ever does arise, why not consider running crisis training to make sure you are operating a safe place for everyone. That way you can test out your policies and procedures and ensure that you are well versed in all areas and of course that you aren’t dropping the ball in any important areas.

In the end

It’s important that we continue to keep workplace health and safety front of mind – even with all of the challenges and distractions that COVID-19 has thrown our way this year. It’s about keeping the conversation going and ensuring that we continue to do our absolute best to provide safe working spaces for our employees.