WHSE Virtual RoundTable “Covid-19: Impact on Health and Safety in the Workplace”

augustus 30, 2020

Covid-19: Impact on Health and Safety in the Workplace

Keeping safe and healthy in the workplace is important at any time, but even more so in times like these.

Covid-19 has thrown the world of work upside down, with key challenges being to keep businesses afloat as well as managing safety and security at work, and now also at the home office.

Many employers followed governmental guidance back in March to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 by arranging, where possible for employees to work from home. However, there are many industries and businesses where work from home was not a possibility for some employees. Businesses needed to consider what a COVID-safe workplace looked like and how it could be effectively managed.

Under Australian WHS law, all employers are required to manage the risk of COVID-19 to workers and others in the work environment. Employers have a duty of care to their employees to safeguard their health and wellbeing.

As Australia starts its recovery from COVID-19, organisations are returning to work. But it won’t be business as usual. In the ‘new normal’, leaders and WHSE professionals must plan around emerging risks to ensure the safety of their people. But how do businesses assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in their workplace and how can they plan for preventive measures for the return to the workplace?

Our first WHSE roundtable was conducted by Michele Beale, Head of Safety Frazer Jones Australia, with a group of Heads of Health and Safety professionals across a range of industry sectors. The topic for the virtual roundtable in this series was “Covid-19: Impact on Health and Safety in the Workplace”.

From the conversation we compiled the following key takeaways:-

What were the measures put in place for industries that needed to continue operations during the pandemic lockdowns?

Preparing a workplace to operate safely in the COVID-19 era means thinking differently. Making changes to the safety protocols in order to protect workers and the business as a whole. It’s about being proactive and ahead of the game.

What will be the tipping point whereby the “novelty” of working from home will impact people’s engagement with the business?

Company culture is fostered, in large part, by employees coming together and engaging in team-building activities and division- or company-wide meetings—so having disjointed teams can make this hard to accomplish. Developing a company culture isn’t just something to be done for its own sake—it has meaningful effects on employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. The COVID-19 forced lockdowns and increased number of employees working from home, has impeded organisations from creating and solidifying their company culture.

How is mental health being managed during remote working and how is family violence and abuse identified?

Government organisations and businesses have told us that if we stay home, we will keep ourselves and our communities safe from COVID19, however, the home may not be safe for people that are subject to domestic violence and abuse. There are many that use work as an escape from home, an escape from the abuse or violence, and now this has been taken away from them. The coronavirus pandemic has brought the topic to the forefront for many organisations.

What impact has Covid-19 had on interstate and international business travel, and the everyday commute to the office?

Travelling for business has always required a certain degree of planning and intentionality. But in today’s COVID-19 world, the need for strategic forethought is more important than ever before. How you prepare will dictate whether or not it’s a safe, healthy, and productive trip.

If you are interested in being part of our conversation and/or would like to join one of our WHSE Virtual Roundtables, please get in touch with Michele Beale, Head of Safety Frazer Jones Australia.