Spirits were high at the beginning of 2020 as people were looking forward to a new year full of possibilities. Now, the mood has shifted drastically as the world has descended into chaos with the emergence and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11th, 2020. What does this mean for businesses and the workplace? What are we, as safety champions, doing about this?
Our job is to raise awareness and step up our game to protect our team and ensure the safety of those around us. It is in tough times like these that true leaders emerge, and with the proper approach, we can all rise to the challenge.
What is COVID-19?
Here’s what we know about COVID-19. According to the World Heath Organization’s piece titled COVID-19 Workplace Readiness, the virus spreads through infected drops of fluid which are released when someone sneezes or coughs, much like the flu. People can also be exposed to the virus when coming in to contact with objects which have been contaminated, as the World Health Organization has stated that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours to even days, depending on the conditions. Though many have recovered from the virus with only mild symptoms, it’s important all precautions are taken especially since the elderly and those with weaker immune systems, due to previous health conditions, are most at risk. The countries which have been most affected by this to-date are China, Italy, the United States, and Spain. North America has also been affected with 55,243 cases in the United States and 2,792 cases in Canada.
According to John’s Hopkin’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering here is where the world stands as of March 25th, 2020. There have been 438,749 confirmed cases globally, 19,675 total deaths, and 111,895 total recovered.
With this in mind, we want to communicate and repeat that the current numbers are as of March 25th, 2020. We encourage you and your team to check for updates from your respective province, state, and country-wide health organizations to ensure your safety.
What This Means for the Workplace
A myriad of organizations in all industries have been affected by this outbreak. Here’s how they have been coping with COVID-19.
According to the article COVID-19: Business Travel Hampered by Coronavirus as Big Companies Ban Trips published by Global News, several global companies have halted all trips for business purposes. Amazon, for instance, has informed 800,000 workers to avoid traveling within the United States or internationally. Twitter and Google have also told their teams to work from home. Most, if not all companies, have gone virtual, solely interacting in the digital space as employees sit in isolation.
What does this mean for the EHS industry? Is there a way to ensure business continuity during such dire times?
Maxim Group, one of the largest building restoration organizations in Canada and an eCompliance customer since 2014, has exemplified what it means to be proactive during a pandemic. Emerging as true safety champions, they have fortified their safety culture and amplified their approach by creating an environment of transparency and trust across their organization.
How did they accomplish this? The answer is two-fold.
Firstly, they created a COVID-19 business continuation form which was passed out to all staff, to do their due diligence towards their employees. The form is both informative and proactive in that it includes important information regarding the coronavirus.
It also asks the right questions such as, “Do you have flu like symptoms?”, “Have you or your family members traveled to any of the affected areas?” and “Is anyone in your family circle being questioned regarding COVID-19”? This has built a secure space for employees to share this information, without feeling uncomfortable or afraid to divulge their symptoms. Maxim Group has conveyed that it is of the utmost importance to remain truthful during this time in order to protect not only team members, but friends and family as well.
This document also includes a section related to business continuity entailing certain measures which will be taken in the event that risk levels rise. For example, Maxim Group will train all employees on COVID-19 and the proper precautions that need to be taken, in addition to implementing crisis management protocols, flexible working arrangements, and daily no-touch temperature readings. They have also shared the proper protocol which must be followed if an employee begins to feel unwell. All staff were required to fill out this document and include their signature to certify that they have read and understood what was communicated.
In addition to this training and business continuity form, Maxim Group has also edited all daily inspection forms to incorporate COVID-19 related questions, in order to remain proactive. By incorporating COVID-19 risks and controls, they can ensure that they are doing all they can to create a safer and stronger safety culture and environment.
What Can You Do?
Firstly, a plan of action needs to be put in place in order to ensure your team’s safety and well-being, now more than ever. Unsure of how to get started? Here are some things you should consider.
Like Maxim Group, encourage transparency within your organization in order to make employees feel secure and protected. It is vital the channels of communication remain open so your team is constantly updated with any new information, policies, or protocols that arise. With many of the workforce currently working from home, continuously check in on your team members and ensure they have the proper work from home arrangements. Also take the necessary steps to check in with your front-line force. Ensure they have the proper PPE and that all the necessary precautions are taken on the field.
eCompliance also offers a variety of tools to help prepare for a pandemic. As previously mentioned, you can edit all daily inspection forms and hazard assessments to include COVID-19 risks and controls, showcased by Maxim Group. Our extensive catalogue of courses can also help you remain proactive. Courses such as Coronavirus Preparedness for Employers and Employees, COVID-19: Protecting Yourself and Others, and Hazwoper PPE and Decontamination Procedures all provide useful tips and guidelines to strengthen your safety culture.
For more information on how to prepare for a pandemic and how eCompliance can help, check out our COVID-19 resource platform which includes best practices that both employees and employers can start implementing right now.