Ever since emerging as a global crisis in February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had unfathomable effects everywhere. The pandemic has clawed at nearly every aspect of work. Informal economy workers have turned out to be particularly vulnerable because most of them lack social protection and don’t have access to quality health care.
While the world is battling against the Coronavirus pandemic, The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is being commemorated on April 28. This day is celebrated every year to promote the prevention of occupational diseases and accidents globally and ensure overall health and safety at the workplace. The theme of 2021 World Day for Safety and Health at Work is – Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises – Invest Now in Resilient Occupational Safety and Health Systems.
This year the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021 will focus on using the elements of an OSH system as laid out in the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187). The world day report explores how the current crisis highlights the cruciality of strengthening these OSH systems at both the national and undertaking levels.
Why is World Health and Safety Day Celebrated?
The International Labour Organization (ILO) started to commemorate World Health and Safety Day in 2003 to focus on preventing accidents and diseases at work, capitalizing on the ILO’s traditional strengths of tripartism and social dialogue. This celebration is a vital part of the Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health of the ILO.
Since 1996, April 28 is also observed as the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers organized worldwide by the trade union movement.
If you’re wondering, how do you maintain health and safety at work? Here are some steps to improving Workplace Health and Safety amid the rising cases of COVID-19:
1. Follow Best Practices
Some universally recognized best practices include wearing a face mask while working, frequent handwashing, and maintaining 6 feet of distance from other people. On top of that, many employers are screening employees for potential COVID-19 symptoms before entering the office and encouraging sick employees to work from home.
Recommendations from the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences for the manufacturing industries and construction sites include the following safety measures :
1.Put a plexiglass barrier between workers whenever social distancing isn’t possible.
2. Allot tools and equipment to workers to thwart the risk of exposure that can happen through sharing.
3. Use one-way lanes of travel on stairs and paths.
4. Assign more time to complete jobs to allow others to pass when toiling in narrow spaces.
2. Practice Self Communication
Even something as simple as pre-safety meetings should be well-thought. If screens are required for communication, meeting executives should display the devices from a safe distance, NUCA (National Utility Contractors Association) suggests.
A sample plan document examining COVID-19 exposure prevention, preparedness, and rescue curated by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition and later revised by Associated General Contractors of America recommends that every in-person meeting must be limited and, if possible, changed to the telephonic meeting. For in-person meetings, the group suggests keeping the participants 6 feet apart and not gathering more than ten people at one time.
Furthermore, verbal attendance should be taken rather than passing around a paper sheet or mobile device for sign-in.
3. Leverage the Power of Technology
During the pandemic, technology emerged as the biggest ally of businesses around the world. While speaking during a webinar series presented by National Safety and Council, Alex Eggleston, Safety, Health, and Environment Manager at BAE Systems, observed that the Coronavirus pandemic is forcing employers worldwide to adopt technology and innovation more readily than ever before.
Technologies such as wearable proximity detectors, contact-tracing applications, touch-free ways for workers to clock in and out, and motion-sensing doors at the site have been nothing short of a boon to all the companies.
Michelle Garner-Janna, Executive Director of Corporate Health at Cummins Inc., while talking about technology, stated that one of her company’s success stories includes developing and utilizing collaborative robots referred to as “cobots.” These “cobots” allow an individual worker to carry on more than one task. According to Janna, working in collaboration with “cobots” lets workstations maintain appropriate social distancing between employees safely and efficiently.
The World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28 promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. Being an awareness-raising campaign, it directs international attention to emerging risks. Occupational hazards can be caused by technical innovation or by social or organizational changes, like:
1. Use of New technologies and production processes like nanotechnology or biotechnology.
2. Improved work conditions include higher workloads, poor conditions associated with migration for work, work intensification because of downsizing, and much more.
3. Opting for new forms of employments like self-employment, temporary contracts, or outsourcing, etc.
As an employer, it is your innate duty to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. Here’s how you can do it:
1. Form a Plan for Improving Health and Safety
Being an employer, you must identify hazards in your workplace and take measures to eradicate them. Risks can include a cleaner using heavy-duty cleaning products, a mechanic toiling with large machinery, or a warehouse manager stacking big boxes.
Form a safety plan. Inform your employees what you will do to ensure their safety and what you expect from them. Ensure that the first aid kit is easily accessible to all your employees.
2. Inspect Your Workplace
You must check all your equipment and tools regularly, without fail. Be sure also to check storage areas and review safe work procedures. Are the heavy boxes in your storage area stacked safely? Are your workers thoroughly instructed on how to lift heavy objects without injuring themselves? Are your employees consciously aware of where the fire exit is and where they should assemble if there’s a fire?
3. Train Your Employees
It is an employer’s responsibility to provide proper training to all employees, especially if there is a risk for potential injury. Give written instructions and safe-work procedures to check for themselves if they are unsure of a task or have missed out on their training.
By not providing the proper training for your employees, you are not only endangering the safety of your staff but you will be held responsible for the incident, which could, in turn, have serious repercussions.
Time to Take Big Steps
Statistics say that around two million men and women lose their lives every year through accidents and diseases related to their work. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number is all set to reach new heights.
We have learned from the past crisis that workplaces can play a crucial role in preventing and controlling outbreaks. Proper safety and health measures heavily contribute towards containing the spread of the virus while protecting workers and society at large.
From morale boosters and workplace adjustments to deploying technology, employers need to maintain their current efforts and look ahead.