Like many if not most of you, I’m currently hunkered down in my home office, with my state (Ohio) and no doubt most of yours now under a mandatory lock-down protocol aimed at stemming the impact of the COVID-19 virus. While my normal work routine was to go into the office, I’ve also done a lot of work from home over the years—having a computer, a phone and a web camera are pretty much the main essentials for an editor—so the adjustment to full-time work-at-home status hasn’t been that difficult for me. Other than a few technology challenges that result from entire workforces trying to sign onto their companies’ VPN servers from home, it’s been relatively a painless transition for me.
Not so, unfortunately, for those whose lives—both professionally and personally—have been rudely impacted and upended by the virus. Many of you work for manufacturing, distribution or construction companies, where strategies like machine spacing, staggering shifts, hand sanitizers at every station, increased vigilance on mandatory PPE, and creation of “isolation rooms” for any employee feeling ill have become standard operating procedures. The idea of “essential” businesses and employees has reprioritized those activities that are most necessary to keeping our economy—and indeed, our world—going. Yeah, I’m very much going to miss the return of major league baseball this spring, but I’m glad to see that grocery stores and hospitals are still open for business.
Last month on this page, I offered some tips from National COSH on how to protect yourself at work. Since then, EHS Today presented a webinar featuring Travis Vance, partner with legal firm Fisher Phillips, and Brett Armstrong, global director of business development with Avetta, on “The Coronavirus and Your Workplace: What You Need to Know” (available on-demand by clicking on the link). While we fully expected the webinar to be well attended, it ended up being by far the most popular such webcast we’ve ever done (not surprising, given the subject).
Let me share some of the no-nonsense tips that Vance offered for safety leaders in terms of what they can be and should be doing in this time of so much uncertainty:
Practical Steps to Protect Employees and Limit Spread of COVID-19
● Increase availability of hand cleaner, screen and keyboard wipes and tissues.
● Evaluate jobs for improving social distancing.
● Evaluate remote work opportunities.
● Encourage season flu shots.
● Emphasize wellness program efforts to maintain general health.
● Provide eldercare assistance.
● Provide PPE as appropriate and document training.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Preventing COVID-19 from spreading isn’t somebody else’s job; it’s everybody’s job. We’ve all seen by now the disturbing videos of spring breakers and party-goers flouting the lockdown protocols as they joyously proclaim, “Hey, if I get COVID, I get it, but nothing is gonna stop me from having a good time!” And now many of those same people are under quarantine, having contracted the virus themselves and then spread it to who knows how many other people.
We all shake our heads at that kind of thoughtless inconsideration, but keep in mind that our employees and neighbors are all looking to us for leadership. Many of our peers feel that the lockdown doesn’t apply to them, so it’s important we stress that yes… yes, it does apply to you. It applies to all of us. Until we’ve gotten the national “all clear” signal, it’s up to each and every one of us to do whatever it takes—and showing no fear to err on the side of caution—to contain and end this COVID-19 nightmare so we can get back to safety-business-as-usual.
Stay safe and stay healthy!