As the world continues to grapple with the fallout from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, businesses everywhere are struggling to keep up with the ensuing changes.
From walking back return-to-the-office plans to launching new testing and reporting tools, companies are having to make swift and smart decisions to protect the health and safety of their workplace and the business itself. Many of those changes are being shaped by recommendations from experts like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which continues to amend its safety regulations as the pandemic develops.
OSHA has issued guidance on everything from mask wearing in an office setting to testing protocols and vaccine distributions, which have evolved throughout the last two years. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down OSHA’s proposed vaccine mandate for most American workers, largely leaving the issue up to individual employers, who must make the most informed decisions based on expert guidance. The changing nature of the pandemic and its impact on expert advice can create headaches for HR and business managers looking to protect their workforces—but there are some key aspects of workplace safety that are remaining unchanged and that, when followed, can help you protect your workforce from COVID and many other health and safety risks.
Ensure that your company has clear reporting protocols, including for any health and safety issues that have to be funneled up to agencies like OSHA. HR and business managers should be well-versed in how to handle such complaints, while workers should feel confident any concerns will be quickly addressed. Employees are an important line of defense in an organization’s efforts to prevent injuries or health risks, as they can recognize and report problems managers and leaders may not see on the surface.
Transparent communication across the organization is also key to maintaining a healthy workplace. In addition to posted signage about OSHA or other workplace regulations, leadership must also consistently communicate any changes to safety-related policies or procedures—whether around COVID-related issues like on-site masking or general areas such as new equipment-management procedures. Town halls, email correspondence, company intranets, at-home mailers and more can all be utilized to ensure the workforce is aware of the employer’s health and safety strategy.
Especially given how quickly the pandemic has evolved, workplace changes may need to happen frequently—and in addition to incorporating expert guidance, they should also be informed by employee feedback. Top-down communication without the involvement of the general workforce can negatively impact employee morale and culture, both of which are key to retaining top talent in today’s hot labor market.
Considering that market, employers today are increasingly emphasizing overall health and wellbeing in their value propositions, and such a focus can also support health and safety in the workplace. When companies are more invested in the wellness of their employees, they’re more attuned to their health needs, allowing the organization as a whole to be a safer, more productive place. For instance, organizations that recognize that burnt out employees could benefit from flexibility in when or how they work could reduce their risk for dangerous errors made by distracted or stressed employees. And when employees feel that their employer is committed to their wellbeing, hard work and loyalty are sure to follow.