Safety and Health at Work

Did you know that April 28 is World Day for Safety and Health at Work? What does this mean for me?

It brings attention and focus to the importance of creating a positive safety and health culture in our workplaces to help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.

When we talk about Safety and Health at work it is no longer just the physical risks to injury, but also the psychosocial and now, as we continue to live through a global pandemic, we face ongoing risks of disease transmission.  It is important that our development and revision of Occupational Health and Safety policies, and their actual application in the workplace, continue to be a strong focus.

There is a lot of conversation around returning to the office after two years of working from home.  The conversation flows and ebbs depending on who you are talking to and what they have experienced working from home.  A big part of this is the risk of disease transmission. We feel safe working from home and minimising contact with outsiders, but there are other factors too.

There are those who have gained additional hours by not commuting to the office, battling traffic or navigating public transport.  They have built a sense of security by not going out in public and limiting their risk of exposure to disease transmission.  They have also enjoyed the extra time for hobbies and/or family time, and in some instances, their work output has been consistent and in others, maybe not so much.

Then there are those who live alone or in conditions that are not conducive to working at home. They have felt isolated and impacted by the lack of interaction and social connection.  They can’t wait to get back to the office to reengage with colleagues and feel connected.  These needs outweigh the connectedness against the risk of exposure.  So, what is the right action?  It’s a big question.

The answer is there is no right answer.  Like any job role or organisation there isn’t a one size fits all!  The Government is lifting the pandemic restrictions and businesses want to follow suit.  However, we need to take into account each individual’s needs and expectations and align those with the organisation’s needs and expectations to find the best fit.  Like any OHS risk, if we don’t engage with our staff, how are we going to get it right?  Yes, there are some jobs that need us in the office or onsite, but there are likewise some jobs that can be performed no matter where you are physically located.  Technology has advanced rapidly in the past few years and the change has been coming for a while, the pandemic has just moved it along sooner than anyone expected.

The required action is clear; create a culture where everyone feels comfortable raising concerns and is valued for their input.   Make sure to be inclusive, through meaningful involvement of all parties in the ongoing improvement of our processes and procedures.  Sound familiar?  If we agree on clear expectations and we are held accountable then we should have a Safe and Healthy workplace for everyone.

To learn more about World Day for Safety and Health at Work, please visit Safe Work Australia.

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