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Now Is Not the Time to Be Complacent

March 3, 2020
Preventing COVID-19 from spreading isn’t somebody else’s job; it’s everybody’s job.

To celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary, my wife and I are finally going to take a sea cruise this winter, a welcome respite from the Cleveland cold. We made sure we got our flu shots last fall, and got prescriptions for seasickness meds in case we get the queasies, and we’re packing plenty of sunscreen and other casual touristy PPE (sunglasses, hats, loose-fitting outerwear, etc.) to stay safe and healthy. We’ve been eating healthy, exercising, washing our hands multiple times throughout the day—anything we could do to make sure we’re feeling fine when we board the ship.

The one thing that we didn’t plan for when we booked the cruise last fall, though, is something we hadn’t even heard of then: the coronavirus, or as they’re calling it now, COVID-19. Luckily, our cruise is on the opposite side of the world from China (where the virus is said to have originated), and I’ve actually been doing all the things safety groups have suggested we do to protect ourselves while at work (see sidebar). But if nothing else, it brought home to me how easy it is to get lulled into complacency—that belief that because everything is going fine right now, nothing can come along and change that.

Motivational speaker Paul Mahoney knows a little something about complacency; in fact, he’s written a book about it (Man V Machine: Journey of Complacency), and you can hear his latest thoughts on the subject in his article, “Avoiding the Complacency Culture.” Mahoney, who is based in the UK, is the first person in that country to have lost an arm in an industrial accident at a paper mill and had it reattached above the elbow. As he says, that accident was caused by complacency: his own, his organization’s and the industry’s.

Paradoxically, it tends to be the best companies that are at the greatest risk of succumbing to complacency. “The more successful you and your team become, the more you slip into the cycle of thinking you’re the best and all is fine,” Mahoney points out. The best way to break that “culture of complacency,” he says, is to be courageous enough, as individuals, to make the right decisions at the right time. That’s what leadership is all about.

And right now, a lot of courageous people are working around the clock to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. At this writing, nobody has a really clear idea as to the impact of COVID-19 on the United States. Certainly there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty about whether the virus will actually spread throughout North America, and if so will it lead to quarantines and travel restrictions and mandated plant shut-downs and furloughs. Many U.S. businesses (though so far, mainly those with Chinese operations or suppliers) have already been affected in some way, but the biggest question people have right now is: “How can I protect myself?”

“This virus is new, but well-tested safety precautions against infectious disease can reduce the risk of workplace exposure,” explains Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). EHS professionals should ensure that their workplaces are utilizing training, PPE, record-keeping and other measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, she adds.

My thanks to all of the courageous EHS and healthcare professionals who, whether they signed up for this or not, are doing all they can to protect us from this virus. Any and every effort, large and small, that can keep COVID-19 at bay needs to be gratefully acknowledged and applauded. And don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a sense of false security merely because nobody you know has been affected. That’s the worst kind of complacency.

COVID-19: How to Protect Yourself at Work

·  Avoid close contact with sick people.

·  Stay home if you’re sick. Limit contact with others as much as possible.

·  Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to avoid spreading germs.

·  Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.

·  Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

—National COSH

About the Author

Dave Blanchard | Editor-in-Chief / Senior Director of Content

During his career Dave Blanchard has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeek, EHS Today, Material Handling & Logistics, Logistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. Prior to joining Endeavor/Informa/Penton, he spent a decade covering the artificial intelligence industry. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. 

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