Whether you’re at the top of a company with ultimate responsibility for the safety of your workplace or an entry-level employee, everyone has the right to assume their workplace will be safe and healthy.
Of course, some professions are riskier than others, but that’s why there are things like risk assessments and safety regulations for you to follow.
Every year on 28th April, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) World Day for Health and Safety at Work aims to shine a light on such topics and encourage employers to create a positive safety and health culture. The theme for this year’s event is “Let’s act together to build a positive safety and health culture.”
Let's explore how you (or your team) can ensure workplaces remain safe, healthy, and happy places for everyone.
1. Continue following COVID-19 protocols
Last year’s World Day for Health and Safety at Work focused on what businesses could do to keep employees safe from COVID-19 as they returned to the workplace.
While the doesn’t appear to have published any results from last year’s campaign, which called on governments worldwide to improve labour standards to ensure everyone can go to work without risking their health, this remains a vital point of action.
Even if you do business in countries that have largely relaxed restrictions and are pursuing a “living with COVID” strategy, nothing is stopping you from maintaining COVID-19 protocols on your premises. If you don't want to enforce specific rules, you could at least ensure your employees feel like they can follow any protocols they wish to.
This might include:
- Telling them they can continue to wear face coverings if they wish
- Ensuring distancing between workstations, if you have the space
- Maintaining posters and other signage encouraging the following of high hygiene standards
- Leaving hand sanitiser dispensers at each workstation or around the office
Remember, the things we were all doing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 will also help prevent the spread of other respiratory conditions like the flu and common colds. Maintaining COVID-19 protocols is potentially a small cost for a considerable saving in productivity thanks to a reduced number of sickness days.
2. Be up to date with wellness trends
Employee wellness came into focus like never before during the last two years. But, perhaps the most significant risk attached to "returning to normal" is that the lessons learned and experienced gained during the pandemic fall to the wayside, and we return to a pre-2020 normal.
Another risk is that we fail to recognise how our employees’ wellness needs will evolve in the next 12 months and beyond. Ultimately, the support you provided to your teams while they were permanently working from home may not be relevant now everyone is back in the office. But that doesn't mean you should stop supporting them!
Instead, take the time to identify the wellness trends that matter to your teams and understand how you can harness these to make your workplace a healthier environment.
3. Keep complete training records
Paperwork and admin aren’t the most glamorous things in anyone’s world. Still, ensuring your training records are complete and up to date covers you from a legal perspective and helps you identify new opportunities to enhance the safety and health credentials of your workplace.
Checking you’re compliant here will also enable you to build an ongoing training schedule, which will keep safety and health on your and your team members’ agenda all year round, and not just on a single day of the year!
4. Consider working with occupational clinicians
One of the trickiest aspects of managing safety and health at work is that everyone is individual.
For example, you could have employees who can't complete specific tasks due to age, a physical or mental health condition, or after returning to work following illness or a medical procedure.
While many businesses leave it up to employees to find and work with an occupational clinician themselves, you can stand out as an employer if you take the lead here. Occupational clinicians observe tasks that your employees undertake while performing their roles and suggest ways to do them that negate the factors we listed above.
How much better will your team feel if you adapt your processes proactively so everyone can perform them under whatever circumstances? This is much more favourable than individuals feeling like they have forced your business to change to accommodate them.
5. Offer health-related benefits
Businesses have long focused on offering employees packages that deliver value beyond their basic salary, with this trend given another boost by the pandemic.
If it's been some time since you reviewed your employee benefits packages, doing so won't just make your workplace healthier; it'll boost your teams' motivation and enhance your attractiveness as an employer.
Health-related benefits could be anything from allowing people to take paid mental health days to providing comprehensive domestic and international health insurance to your employees.
6. Be collaborative
The key to achieving a safer and healthier work environment is ensuring that your team members buy into it.
Luckily, you won’t need to sell anything to your employees if you take a collaborative approach from the start. Ask your people what they’d like to see from your business, what you could do differently, and what they know your competitors do well, then take all the best ideas and adapt them for your business and your team.