Workplace safety plans have evolved from the need to prepare for natural disasters to the ongoing health crisis surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. While the pandemic caught many if not most businesses off-guard, in the months since the initial wave of closures and lockdowns, more companies have seen the need for a strong crisis plan that takes worker safety into account.
As a result, safety protocols today go way beyond fall protection and hard hats. Mental and physical challenges for employees have reached heights unprecedented in modern times, and found workplaces which might previously have seemed immune to health threats. Is your company prepared to protect employees with improved safety protocols? Here are some things to consider as your team builds a safety plan that works for everyone.
Physical Health Threats
Every job comes with physical concerns, although some are more severe than others. When it comes to protections during a pandemic, most businesses have had to deal with the threat of airborne illness for the first time. Essential businesses have had to adjust in real time, providing protections for workers while trying to come up with safety protocols that work for everyone.
Business developing new safety plans should consider the PPE necessary to keep their various teams working safely. This will look different depending on industry needs — healthcare workers will require a strong supply chain with back-up providers in order to stay safe at work, while office workers in fully remote or hybrid work situations could work safely with parameters in place for appropriate office access, mask-wearing, vaccines, and the like.
Mental Health Threats
Safety concerns can come from all angles. Mental health, including fatigue and burnout, poses the risk of on-the-job injuries for site workers in a variety of industries, from health care to retail. Many workers are taking on increased workloads — this might be because of resignations due to safety concerns, increased demand from customers, or even due to social distancing and an inability to fully staff locations while meeting safety guidelines.
The potential for physical injury due to mental burnout becomes a vicious circle when employees have to deal with the emotional fall-out from an injury which causes missed work or even hospitalization.
Protecting workers from physical injury, then, calls for implementing mental health protocols into a business’s safety plan. That might mean hiring more staff, cutting back location hours, or cutting services offered in order to protect employees. And of course, this safety protocol should include offering mental health support via your company’s benefit plans.
Mental stress also remains the largest detriment to the health office-based workers. Wellness, an emphasis on PTO and personal time, and comprehensive benefits which focus on common stressors such as caregiving needs and financial pressure can all be part of a long-term strategy for keeping workers healthy. Learn more about mental health benefits here.
Building Long-Term Safety Plans for Your Company
In any business, an ongoing need for crisis plans and protections for workers remains important. Safety training needs to become a focus for new hires as well as continuing education for workers. Developing long-term safety protocols based on lessons learned from the pandemic? Include your employees from all areas of your company. Their experiences on the front lines could be the most important input into your company’s safety plans.
And remember that safety protocols can’t be one size fits all. The CDC provides specific recommendations by industry, ranging from first responders to educators to food service. Companies with both office and front-line workers must pay equal attention to the safety of both. Copy and paste won’t work here — the risk factors are too different.
Communication remains the single most important factor in developing safety guidance that works long-term. Are your teams able to effectively communicate updates about safety protocols and trainings? Can your employees easily access resources to keep them safe, whether that is primary care or additional benefits such as EAP? How strong are your onboarding programs, especially when social distancing and remote work have moved many new hire programs into virtual experiences?
Whether your company’s greatest concern is reopening offices safely or maintaining the health and safety of essential workers, a workplace safety program is essential to protect everyone. With all of the factors that go into providing a safe workplace and keeping employees informed, it might be time to look at how efficiently your benefits, communications, and employee support systems work together. For a streamlined approach to benefits, WBD’s full-service benefits administration platform and services simplifies Human Resources. Learn more here.