Marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28: Why It’s All the More Important Post-Pandemic
As the number of COVID-19 positive cases are on the decline and the world gradually reverts to normal and a large number of employees are being called back to the office, there have been constant discussions on how this would actually influence the policies regarding workplace safety.
Safety and health at the workplace have long been major global issues. So much so that, since 2003, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has recognized the World Day for Safety and Health at Work every April 28th. The goal has to been to advocate for accident and sickness prevention in the workplace. This issue has become even more prominent with the pandemic.
In the beginning stages of the pandemic back in March 2020, offices all over the world were quick to respond and implement measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. And now that the cases have been contained, does this mean workplaces can go back to pre-COVID-19 times?
In keeping true to the mission of the ILO to minimize the prevention of accidents and diseases at work, occupational safety and health experts suggest that efforts to have adequate safety and health measures at work still should be prioritized to contain the spread of not just COVID-19 and its related variants, but of any disease – and collaboration is key.
The Ontario province has given the go-ahead to recall government employees back to the office by April 4, while British Columbia has recommended government workers to go back by March 28 but through phases.
As such, most employers like the provincial governments have signed up workplace design and safety engineers to ensure a healthy return to the office, while maintaining productivity levels.
Continuous safety measures
An action implemented to make sure physical distancing is still observed, along with capacity limits, is to do bookings of a desk, office, or a meeting room in advance.
Companies that offer shared offices aim to charge for the spaces, such as $45 to rent a boardroom for an hour.
On the other hand, other experts suggest that workplaces should aim to improve the quality at their sites. This would prove challenging, however, for the companies situated in office buildings that have older ventilation systems, as it will most likely require an overhaul that could cost up to millions.
In due time, companies should look into providing their staff more flexible options with regard to the workplace, including adding more communal areas.
Having a central hub helps in promoting social connections as well as improve productivity.
If it’s broke, fix it
Some experts say that maintenance should still remain a top priority for companies. Before employees are recalled back to work, employers should call on property managers to address maintenance issues, from something minor as light bulbs not working to something major as a malfunctioning elevator.
Frequent cleaning measures should remain in place as well as efforts to improve air quality. Hand sanitation stations should also strategically placed in work environments.
The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is just one way to advocate for these major issues. It may not be a quick road to normalcy for workplaces post-pandemic, but employers should look at the bigger picture and work on what they can do to provide a healthy and safe environment for the staff.
Brend, Yvette. “Design experts rethink the workspace as pandemic restrictions ease across Canada.” CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-feb-25-2022-1.6364228/design-experts-rethink-the-workspace-as-pandemic-restrictions-ease-across-canada-1.6373245
Deschamps, Tara. “Post-pandemic back-to-work puts spotlight on office maintenance.” Nanaimo News Bulletin. https://www.nanaimobulletin.com/business/post-pandemic-back-to-work-puts-spotlight-on-office-maintenance/
Ontario.ca. “COVID-19 and workplace health and safety.” https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-workplace-health-safety?_ga=2.49343206.1327791763.1647208630-246573711.1647208630
United Nations. “World Day for Safety and Health at Work.” https://www.un.org/en/observances/work-safety-day