3 new priorities for National Safety Month this year
Posted on 23rd Jun, 2020 | By Lorretta Tatham
National Safety Month runs throughout June, so there’s still time to get involved! We regularly highlight National Safety Month each year – it’s primarily a US-based initiative by the American Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), but it’s one that still has plenty of relevance for UK employers too.
This year, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, certain aspects of National Safety Month have taken on new significance, and priorities have changed accordingly. Our own health and safety courses have now resumed at Browns Safety, but alongside ensuring that your workers are properly trained in skills like Manual Handling and Working at Height, here are a few other things worth considering.
1. Safety measures against Covid-19
Guarding against the risk of coronavirus is obviously the top priority for employers all over the UK right now, and indeed, a key legal obligation – as making workplaces as safe as possible for employees is required by law. Social distancing is a key aspect of coronavirus safety measures – though these measures may not need to be as stringent as they initially were at the outset of the pandemic, keeping to the 2m rule where possible may help to alleviate concerns from employees, especially if they’re classed as more vulnerable than others.
It’s wise to keep to a policy of wearing masks where possible in addition to normal PPE, and re-examine your processes and workspaces to see how you can realistically minimise close or direct physical contact between your employees. (This may be more realistic for certain workplaces more than others, but it’s important to do what you can, nonetheless.)
Naturally, anyone who displays any symptoms – or has been in close contact with someone who has – should self-isolate at home for two weeks. (The main symptoms include a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.) Now, it’s important for us to say that this is not an exhaustive list, and most of it is common knowledge by now. This is just a minimal recap of all the main precautions as far as we currently know them to be, and the exact measures you should be taking will depend heavily on your industry, environment and employees.
For more detail, we recommend reading the official guidance from the World Health Organisation, as well as the official guidance for employers from the UK government. Be aware that these may be subject to change.
2. Supporting battles with mental health
The mental health of staff is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and least discussed workplace dangers at the best of times, making it a key priority all year round. However, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly detrimental effect on the nation’s mental health, so it’s an area where you should take particular care to ensure you’re properly upholding welfare standards for your staff.
It’s not unusual at the moment for employees to be facing a huge amount of stress, ranging from their financial or economic situation to fears for their loved ones, not to mention concerns for their own safety if they’re positioned in physical or public-facing jobs. Make sure that there are resources in place for staff to consult, or professional help available if they need it. (If you need a helping hand on where to start, ACAS has useful guidance on what employers should be providing for their employees.)
3. Forge a safety culture
In many ways, this comes under the mental health concerns we’ve detailed above. An effective health and safety culture within your workplace is not only important for guaranteeing the physical health of your employees, but also for making sure they feel understood and supported. It’s wise to proactively reach out to your employees, encouraging and facilitating discussion and awareness of the problems they may be facing. This alone won’t solve any mental health struggles overnight, but employees can feel much better equipped to handle their stress if they feel they have the understanding and support of their employer.
On a similar note, rather than making sweeping changes to day-to-day operations immediately, it’s a good idea to meet with your employees and discuss any changes in systems or procedures that you plan to implement, and why. Not only can this help get a better understanding of the situation ‘on the ground’, but it can also help ensure that the new rules are being adhered to – employees are far more likely to stick to rules they’ve been consulted on, as opposed to ones they haven’t.
Here at Browns Safety, our Health & Safety training courses are NOW OPEN, in accordance with advice from the government. You can find our full range of safety courses we offer right here on our website, or if you’ve got any specific questions (or you’d like to book your place), feel free to give us a call on 01282 615517!