The World Day for Safety and Health at Work in 2020 has a focus on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, focussing in particular on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, 28 April 2020, we also see NZ transitioning to Alert Level 3. Thousands of workers are heading back to workplaces across the country in what will be a very different operating environment.
Managing this change
One thing we must all ensure is that this change must be recognised within our operating environment, managed well and monitored by all PCBU leaders as they endeavour to get work going safely while ensuring the health of workers.
Over the years as a Health and Safety professional, I have observed that poor change management is often the root cause of many harm related events.
Change in a business sense is generally related to bringing opportunities for improvement. But, when poorly assessed and managed change occurs combined with no monitoring or oversight to ensure all the controls in place for managing change are effective, many unsafe conditions and practices introduced could go undetected until it goes wrong – i.e. not what the objective was for change.
I urge all leaders to seek this verification in their own business today and over the next few weeks with this big return to work change occurring.
What about those that are still working from home?
It’s also a timely reminder to recognise what risks the Alert Level status change does for those that can’t get back to work.
This extended period doesn’t mean a lot of difference than Alert Level 4 for many of us. The potential psychosocial risks, ergonomic and other work-related safety and health risks associated with working in our home bubble for an extended period must not be ignored.
Again to all business leaders, reach out to check your workers are doing okay. Look for signs of what risks could be emerging.
And don’t forget to recognise and praise all your workers - especially if you have had essential workers in your business who have been there all the way through. This effort has saved many thousands of lives and that in itself is a huge achievement.
Keep up the good work, good things will come if we get this next stage right. Think Safe, Work Safe and Home Safe.