Donesafe News

Have we increased the risk of injury to the workforce by sending workers home?

Increased-worker-risks-from-home

4 Minute Read

For months, years or even decades, you have been tirelessly working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your workers – in the workplace.

And along comes COVID-19. Even companies that were resistant to the concept of a distributed workforce have been forced to adopt working from home or contactless working environments. It has allowed companies to operate while taking precautions to reduce the spread of the virus. On top of that, it has become clear that working from home will become more strategic once the pandemic is over and here to stay.

Suddenly your workers are in environments or situations you haven’t considered before. While contactless work initiatives such as work from home is a benefit employees value, many companies lack the technology infrastructure to offer that capability without some sacrifices to “workplace safety.”  We are hearing endless stories of excel spreadsheets, paper forms and disconnected apps being used as makeshift solutions to safety and health initiatives, reporting and injury prevention.

But there is an opportunity here. One unexpected outcome of COVID-19 is that companies realize the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation. The time for safety leaders to raise a business case to invest in the latest technology is now.

What new challenges are safety leaders facing? 

There’s been a dramatic alteration for workers, but an even larger shift for safety leaders as overnight changes have exposed weaknesses in the technology at their disposal.  

Safety leaders are well aware of the dangers, risks involved in a working environment and how to mitigate the risks; new working environments included. But for the majority of the community we are exposed to, they simply don’t have the technology to support them. 

We’ve had to go virtual and change the way we work. Toolbox talks, daily stand-ups and company meetings no longer happen face-to-face given the social distancing and government health bodies guidelines. Communicating to departments, divisions or the whole organization has never been harder – those all-staff emails can go unread, cannot be acknowledged and hold only a factor of the information and data needed when communicating safety alerts, actions, and follow-up notifications. Executives are asking for reports that have never been conceived before.

The result? Many current systems (that may have been successful pre-Coronavirus) now have gaping holes in the face of rapid change that are contributing to increased risk to worker’s safety and wellbeing. 

Top issues include:

  • Changes to SOP or workflows

Example new risk: A construction worker now joins safety meetings virtually rather than on-site. One morning, he uses his phone to join a virtual pre-work safety meeting while walking to work, and steps out onto a road without looking.

  • Online interactions and communication to workers

Example new risk: An employee is swamped with emails in their day to day work, and tends to ignore safety notices because most aren’t relevant to her.

  • Ability to manage and track infectious disease (COVID-19 for example)

Example new risk: An employee has some minor symptoms but she is unsure if it is COVID-19 and decides to go to work and deal with it at the end of the day. She learns 3 days later she has COVID-19 and calls in sick.

  • A simple online interface to promote workers to input data such as hazards and incidents.

Example new risk: An employee now working from home notices his back is sore from sitting on the couch working on the laptop. He is unsure if he can request a desk from his employer because the policies and request forms are too hard to find and use.

The right technology can mitigate all of these risks.

For safety leaders, finding integrated, flexible, online and simple to use platforms is now a pressing issue. 

Injuries and claims being reported in ‘contactless’ workplaces

For many in our community at Donesafe, the ‘contactless’ workplace is the home. The categories being reported below are mainly influenced by those working from home, but they remain true for those still traveling to work but facing new ‘contactless’ processes.

Areas causing increased risk to the workforce include:

  • Any manual handling task carried out by an employee
  • Working alone
  • Trips and falls plus hazards and associated musculoskeletal risks
  • Equipment and electrical safety
  • Hazardous materials and substances
  • Cyber risks and security
  • Work-related stress
  • Wellbeing and mental health 
  • General environment – noise, security, fire exit access, first aid, other.

A quick web search will return many examples. Businesses are facing huge bills when it comes to injury claims, including:

April 1st, 2020 – Claim total $500,000 – Home death caused by a delusional partner was work-related 

April 15th, 2020 – Cleaning regime defeats claim in $2.3m injury case

April 17th, 2020 – Dozens of injury claims for COVID-19 reported;
> More than 150 COVID-19 work injury claims lodged in NSW

> SWA weighs in on cleaning regimes for COVID-19

> Workplace wellness programs crucial for self-isolating staff

NOW is your opportunity to put forward a business case

Even companies that were resistant to the concept of a distributed workforce have been forced to adopt working from home or contactless working environments. It allows companies to operate while also taking precautions to reduce the spread of the virus within its workforce and the broader community. On top of that, it has become clear that working from home will become more strategic, even once the pandemic is over.

While contactless work such as work from home is a benefit employees value, many companies lack the technology infrastructure to offer that capability without some sacrifices to “business as usual.” EHS (environmental health and safety) is no exception – often being down the pecking order when it comes to technology investment within the organization.  However, one unexpected outcome of COVID-19 is that companies realize the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation. 

Now is your opportunity to put forward a business case.

Areas that are contributing to the need to fast-track digital transformation

  • Employees working from home will become more strategic and more common
  • Standard operating practice will be adapted and elevated to a new level
  • In-person interactions will be considered less important 
  • Leadership will engage teams (including EHS teams) to work more creatively and to be more agile.

How do you build a business case for safety software?

We have a number of resources available for you to use. See the links below:

ROI 1 – Comparing the long term pricing to alternative solutions

ROI 2 – 4 Reasons to choose an integrated offering

ROI 3 – What is the ROI of Safety and Compliance regarding software

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