Since emerging as a global health crisis in early 2020, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had overwhelming impacts everywhere.
The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect relating to work, from the risk of virus transmission in workplaces to occupational safety and health (OSH) risks. The OSH risks are a result of measures aiming to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
There is a huge shift in working arrangements, such as the widespread reliance on remote work and teleworking. However, even those presented health and safety risks, such as psychosis, musculoskeletal pain, and other health risks.
The World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021 focuses on leveraging the OSH system in accordance with the 2006 Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention (No. 187).
This 28th of April, we are celebrating the 18th World Day for Safety and Health at Work. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), an estimated 136 million workers, mostly in human health and social work activities, are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. About 2.7 billion workers or an equivalent to over 80 per cent of the world’s workforce are affected by the partial or complete lockdowns in the past year. One of the main causes of high virus transmission in the workplace is the economic pressure to re-open factories and workplaces. In most instances, workplaces re-open even without adequate protection and safety measures that could put millions of workers at risk.
The ILO will take this opportunity to raise awareness and give importance to creating and investing in health and safety systems. The focus of this years’ theme is to mitigate and prevent the Spread of COVID-19 at the workplace.
The main aims of the ILO
Every year, the International Labor Organisation comes up with a theme that applies to the current global workplace issues. The overall goal of this celebration is to promote rights at work, encourage employment opportunities, social protection for all parties, and start a discussion on work-related issues.
Statistics from the ILO show that about 6,300 people die every day from occupational accidents or work-related diseases globally. That is the equivalent of 2.3 million work-related deaths per year. While 317 accidents occur in the workplace annually. Many of these result in loss of work hours and extended absences from work.
World Safety day attempts to take 100-year worth of stock in improving occupational safety and health. It investigates the future of the workplace to determine which efforts to take in terms of technology, demographics, sustainable development (climate change), and changes in work organisation.
Emerging Risks in the Workplace
2020 brought some brand-new and unique challenges in many workplaces due to COVID-19.
It exposes an occupational health crisis in many workplaces worldwide. Some of the workers’ issues include denial of basic health and safety protection. In most cases, there is no consultation with safety reps and committees regarding COVID-safe policies and practices. There is also a lack of free access to protective equipment and protection when raising health and safety concerns. The same problems exist even before the pandemic. And this results in millions of workers’ deaths every year.
Businesses and organisations had to face substantial shifts throughout their workplace setup. In just a few months, they had to switch from optimising workplace relationships in the office to rebuilding the whole management structure from scratch. All management needs to raise and address issues on return to work safely and the overall workforce readiness once required to go back in the office. These are just some of the major concerns for workplace safety and management.
The pandemic demonstrates why health and safety must be for each worker. Work-related injuries and illnesses can threaten anyone’s safety anywhere and everywhere.
The COVID-19 crisis re-defines the health and safety practices in the workplace. It challenges businesses and organisations to develop more robust systems to protect employees and ensure business continuity. The situation has forced employers and managers to get creative and adapt to new limitations in time, technology, remote communications, and employee management.
Employee management, establishing proper communication through new channels, and onboarding new employees are some of the biggest challenges that hundreds of organisations throughout the United States and the world face right now. Most of them have resorted to providing training and onboarding to their workforce remotely. It somehow promotes relapses and future-proof business by creating more agile and people-centred systems.
First Aid Safety in the Workplace
Some of us have already gone back to the office, while some are still working at home. The pandemic has created a ‘new normal’ that is nearly unrecognisable for most of us. Physical or social distancing guidelines have forced us to stay put and maintain a safe distance from others. It sometimes results in blurring the lines of separation between work, play, and relaxation.
Whether you are working from home or now have gone back to the normal office, finding a healthy balance is the key to ensuring you do not feel burnout. Work-related stress that is not addressed nor given attention can affect their performance. It will eventually lead to a drop in productivity and can even lead to symptoms of mental ill-health such as depression and anxiety.
To raise awareness on World Day for Safety and Health in the Workplace, we encourage businesses and organisations to rethink how they engage with their workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has left its impact, and the only way you can protect your employees is by addressing the issues and coming up with a reliable solution.
We recommend conducting a risk assessment (yes – even to those who are working from home). Know their work condition and consult on how they are feeling with the new setup. Provide them options that you think will help them to work continuously. We recommend providing Mental Health First Aid training to employees, be it online and in person. It will help them a lot to cope, especially during this time.
We have learned from past crises that workplaces can be of vital importance to prevent and control the spread of the virus. Adequate first aid, safety, and health measures at work can protect the workers from getting one. The governments, along with the employers and workers, have a role in tackling the COVID-19 crisis. Collaboration is between the three is the key to coping and overcoming this pandemic.
In addition, beyond conducting regular workplace assessments and looking into workers’ safety concerns, it is also crucial to consider possible future risks that may cause harm to workers.