Stepping up safety as lockdowns and vaccine debates continue 

Posted: 2 September 2021 5:42 pm
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In 2020, locked-down nations looked longingly at the seemingly uninterrupted lives of many Australians. Now – the tables have turned. So what's next?

With tight border controls and stringent safety measures in place, most of the country enjoyed a year that was unthinkable overseas. However, as recent months have shown, total avoidance of COVID-19 is not a sustainable strategy.

The rules of engagement have shifted to long-term management of the pandemic. The government has stated that vaccines are crucial to this, with their roadmap to a COVID-normal future hinging on vaccination rates.

As Australians stare down a cycle of public health orders and snap lockdowns and as the mandate debate rages on, one thing is clear: neither vaccines nor border closures are the "silver bullet" to end the threat of COVID-19.

Vaccination is an essential component of the government's safety strategy, but we all have a role to play when it comes to protecting ourselves and those around us.

First thing's first: speaking up isn't always easy

One of the biggest lessons from the last 2 years is that traditional compliance models are ineffective in managing COVID-19. A small HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) team cannot check up on every individual in the workplace every day.

In the wake of the pandemic, everyone has a new job – keeping ourselves and those around us safe.

Each person's insight has an outcome for the greater good. The only way forward is for everyone to be able to speak up at work in order to report and resolve risks or concerns. Of course, that is something easier said than done, especially in a workplace setting.

Technology can go a long way towards easing the discomfort of speaking up and asking questions. Take advantage of free tools available, whether it's scannable QR codes that allow for anonymous issue reporting or microlearning platforms to host safety training.

At SafetyCulture, our mobile-first platform helps identify issues and opportunities for businesses to improve every day. Our technology is used by over 28,000 organisations globally, and in the uncertainty of recent times, our team has been a force in supporting organisations across countless industries to get safely back to business.

The right technology can act as a buffer and a boon – making sure every detail and element of risk is accounted for in business operations while easing daily stressors and empowering individuals to flag safety issues.

Setting yourself up for work

When it comes to safety in the workplace, don't forget to check in with yourself first. Think about how safe you feel.

Even when you're working from home, take the time to do a quick "work-space check" to see if there are any issues that could make you feel insecure or unsafe. This could be physical risks, like a tangle of cords and an uncomfortable chair or emotional risks like worries about your privacy.

Don't feel like you have to do all the hard work yourself either – there are plenty of free resources at your disposal, such as checklists to ensure your work-from-home set-up ticks all the boxes.

As the pandemic advances and information changes, so do people's confidence and comfort levels. When you return to the office or a formal work setting, you have every right to expect a safe and secure workplace.

A simple step to take is to ask your employer for a Pandemic Work Policy. In our experience, this should include things like risk assessments, social distancing measures and clearly communicating implemented policies to employees. If your workplace doesn't have a policy, there are templates it can use as a starting point.

If your workplace defaults to analogue, paper-based processes, you might think about digitising some of these checks so everyone in the office can keep an eye on safety procedures, cleanliness checks and even density limits. Converting checklists into shareable files to make information publicly available will help increase peace of mind.

To get things consistently right, training will be key. Request training resources from your company or look at free courses on returning to work after the pandemic.

Digital platforms like EdApp have open-access training programmes where anyone can upskill in an easily digestible, interactive way. Courses include the following:

What if you're not comfortable discussing the vaccine at work?

It goes without saying that this pandemic affects everyone, and many workplace conversations are dominated by discussions of the vaccine and COVID numbers.

But it's worth remembering that in a health-related crisis, there is a degree of awareness we need to display when discussing something so personal.

Everyone has different levels of comfort around what they will and won't share about their health. The conversation around vaccination status both in our personal and professional lives is a sensitive one, so be mindful of employees who wish to keep their vaccination status private.

What's next?

With a 70-80% vaccination threshold mandated by the government, there is some legwork to be done before the country can begin reopening.

Public health orders are helping to accelerate the uptake of vaccines, and there are great on-the-ground initiatives happening as well. Consider making your company aware of programs like the Great Aussie Vaccine Drive. Paid vaccination leave can make rolling up the sleeve that bit easier.

COVID vaccination rewards from Medibank, Finder, Qantas, Telstra and more

Mike Welch is the Chief Experience Officer at SafetyCulture, a global technology company that powers 600 million checks per year, 50,000 lessons per day and millions of corrective actions.

For more safety steps you can take, view SafetyCulture's COVID-19 Resource Hub with free COVID-19 guidance from governments and leading industry bodies.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article (which may be subject to change without notice) are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finder and its employees. The information contained in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort. Neither the author nor Finder has taken into account your personal circumstances. You should seek professional advice before making any further decisions based on this information.

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