National Safety Month & Safe Actions for Employee Returns

National Safety Month 2020 logoNational Safety Month is here! Presented by the nation’s leading nonprofit safety advocate, the National Safety Council, this month is focused on saving lives and preventing injuries—from the workplace to anyplace.

Due to unprecedented public health crisis we are currently experiencing with COVID-19, National Safety Month looks a little different from past years. In addition to focusing on mental health, ergonomics, building a safety culture, and driving, NSC is highlighting the efforts of their SAFER task force.

SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns

The NSC developed SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns—a multifaceted effort aimed to help employers create a safe post-quarantine workplace for workers to come back to.

“The manner in which employers bring people back to work will define our national response to the pandemic,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council in a press release. “For more than a century, NSC has been helping employers put safety at the forefront of all their decisions, and we are once again taking action to continue serving this important role.”

SAFER outlines six topics to consider while reopening:

1. Physical: Preparing the physical workplace by developing protocol for maintenance, establishing social distancing practices, and implementing hazard controls to mitigate any risks for employees working in public environments. Conduct a risk assessment for all new processes, procedures, and policies that have been a result of COVID-19. And develop pre-check assessments prior to reintroducing employees. Reconfigure the workplace to increase physical distance between workers, establish procedures for confined spaces (like elevators), and use visual cues and safety signs to encourage healthy social distancing.Remember to Wash Your Hands Wall Sign

2. Medical: Protecting the health of workers before and after returning to the workplace by developing procedures for monitoring medical health, ensuring social distancing, encouraging frequent handwashing, and promoting good respiratory etiquette. Many companies are opting to institute screenings for symptoms and temperature checks for employees, and creating guidelines for how to respond if an employee is suspected to have COVID-19. Workplaces should also take this time as an opportunity to engage workers in proper hygiene practices. Make sure hand washing stations or hand sanitizer are easy to access, and post safety signs about proper and hygiene in restrooms and break rooms.

3. Stress, Emotional, & Mental Health: Providing employees the extra support needed to return to work. Work with the organization’s leaderships and supervisors to create a culture of mental health safety. Be sure to communicate helpful resources to employees and reassure your workforce they can seek help from the company.

4. Employment, Legal, & HR: Preparing the workforce to transition back to the workplace by ensuring everyone is on the same page about returning and what this “new normal” looks like for the organization. Evaluate the flexibility of current work policies, determine if your workforces can be re-introduced to the facility in phases, and check with local and state requirements about wearing personal face coverings at work. Notify employees of any updates and make sure workers have a way to ask questions or voice concerns.

5. Communication: Developing a comprehensive change management communications strategy can help ease anxieties, make workers more mindful of social distancing policies, boost leadership, and strengthen the culture of safety in the workplace. One way you can keep a clear line of communication is by putting together a Return to Work Team. In addition to conducting hazard assessments, a Return to Work Team can be responsible for workers are given regular updates on changes in the workplace.

6. External Factors: Raising awareness of the outside influences, such as medical guidance or the level of community risk, that has the potential to impact operations. It’s important any protocols or policies you implement adhere to federal, state, and local jurisdiction requirements. Identify primary sources or government policy information and consider assigning the Return to Work Team responsibility for communicating with state and local health officials to obtain timely and accurate information about COVID-19.

Building a Safety Culture

This upcoming week of National Safety Month is all about creating a culture of safety in your workplace. Although employers should always make worker safety and health a priority, it is now more critical than ever before. So, how can you sustain a safety culture during the coronavirus? The NSC recommends:

  • Crisis Management: Now is the opportune time to evaluate your crisis management strategy or begin developing one if one hasn’t already been established. You may want to consider creating a written infectious preparedness and response plan, putting together a Return to Work Team, and finding ways to encourage frequent and open dialogue with employees.
  • Safety leadership: Having a strong leadership has a major influence over the culture of a workplace. In order to maintain a healthy working environment, leaders should continuously push for improvement and work with employees to tackle safety proactively.
  • Eliminating workplace hazards through training: An informed workforce is a safe workforce. Consider holding trainings during this time for things like disinfection techniques, proper PPE usage, social distancing, hand hygiene techniques, new behaviors expected from employees upon returning to work, and more.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding what our post-pandemic world may look like after opening back up, employers have a responsibility keep their workforce safe. During National Safety Month, take the chance to review your safety efforts and help keep everyone safe as operations resume. To learn more about getting involved and access free materials from the National Safety Council here.

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