It’s now time to think how a workplace will look like once stay-at-home gets withdrawn, temporary flexibility measures cease – navigating COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath is one of the biggest challenges industries have faced and shall continue to negotiate in near-future. Resuming back to normal is in making, but many are still unsure as to how this ‘normal’ would look like.
Amid the intensifying economic turmoil, decisions to keep operations going while minimizing risks to the employees remains critical.
The ability to respond effectively towards COVID-19 risks are critically linked to good planning – essential oversight duties help industry professionals to take their workforces from crisis to recovery.
Some big picture questions that are related to the way the work is performed, what work is actually done, include –
- Is the business ready for an agile and mostly, virtual workplace?
- What changes will be embraced in terms of performance of work?
- Any response plan in place for future pandemic?
Fast-forward, EHS professionals and management need to work upon these factors for increased workplace adaptability.
Workplace health and safety
Relaxed restrictions do not mean scope for compromised safe work practices – in fact, it becomes the prime duty of the industry professionals to work with the workforce for promoting safe work practices, ensuring that their workplaces are ready for social distancing and recommended hygiene measures.
Given the ubiquity of mobiles, one can leverage technology to facilitate contact tracing and communicate with the employees in-house. However, in light of the privacy concerns and liabilities that arise from such matter, an easy to understand and implement approach which is secure needs to be applied. Workplace activities, hazards and risks can be monitored using digital platforms and software that have ready-to-access dashboards and secure process workflow built within – a solution for the EHS professionals in safe running of industrial operations.
Apart from the sanitation and hygiene protocols, proper coordination becomes necessary, for teams, where there is shift rotation and people working from home. Plant employees, especially in high hazard areas, who deal with activities such as permit approvals, isolations need a common platform to share and communicate, control and execute work with least amount of threats. Such as digital permit to work which helps in increasing transparency with maximum accountability due to its authenticated and user-based workflow.
Risk management is a key driver for physical change at the workplace – floor markings, signage and screens, vigilance at workplace, cleaning are some of the visible changes. Work-related travel, customer-client interaction requires renewed attention – lesser the touch points, lesser risks the workers are exposed to.
Barriers like plexiglass sheets can be installed in the production areas – these can help company protect its employees who are in close proximity without increasing risks at the workstation from pinch points or trip hazards.
To prevent any unexpected accidents or plant shutdowns, retraining on work tasks and equipment maybe needed for people returning to work in hazard-prone areas.
With all of this, mental anxieties should be dealt with adequate care and comfort – changed work conditions and personal circumstances can create instabilities And therefore, a psychosocial care plan becomes essential which should be constituted using expert clinician advice.
Digital trainings that acclimatize employees to their changed workplace scenarios can be a step taken by the industries to prevent the spread of fear and panic of COVID-19. Additional protocols can be explained easily via E-learning portals, where workers get a chance to understand their altered conditions.
Employees are counting on their companies to help them return to work safely. Although employees must understand that it is still their responsibility to validate their readiness to restart to full-scale operations.