If you missed part one of this series, click here.
The webinars presented as part of Digital Week 2020 have been fantastic for providing current information to OSH professionals.
In this blog, we’re going to be summarising some of the key takeaways from certain speakers and topics from the webinars.
What does a post-Coronavirus workplace look like?
This was the opening section of the OSH webinar.
Prof Dr. Andrew Sharman, the President of IOSH
Dr. Sharman opened up the webinar by stating that the OSH profession is the most important that it has ever been due to current circumstances.
He then stated the importance risk assessments will have upon returning to work and that employers will need to provide training in both risk assessments and risk management to ensure that they can be completed effectively and diligently.
Ruth Denyer, Group Risk Director of ITV
Ruth started her part with a quote that I mentioned in the previous blog in this series: “handrails, not handcuffs”. She referenced this as she believes businesses and people need to work together to gain an understanding of how people are feeling, and from this should identify trends that could pinpoint any issues that arise upon returning to work.
She then addresses the thought that Health & Safety has had a bad reputation in recent years, but states that it is up to OSH professionals to use this current climate to reiterate the importance of their jobs. She mentions how this should be done by not solely focusing on policing risk assessments, but working together to ensure everybody is committed to risk management.
Finally, she explained that she thinks industries need to find some kind of uniformity when it comes to government guidance.
Karen McDonnell, Head of RoSPA Scotland
Karen opened her talk by saying that OSH organisations and professionals alike must be visible in this digital world. She states that brands will stand out if they keep on top of this.
She then states the importance of OSH professionals humanizing the OSH world and that as a group they need to develop a better understanding of what is happening to employees outside of the workplace, i.e is COVID-19 severely impacting their mental health.
She also reiterates that everybody’s lockdown experience is going to be different and that OSH professionals need to encourage people to talk about their experiences. Then they should be supported to whatever extent is required.
Karen ended her section by stating that it is a manager's duty to identify trends in people's experiences and how they have been affected by COVID-19, and these trends should be shared amongst managers to identify common issues.
Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of British Safety Council
Lawrence starts by directly addressing the construction sector. He says that there is a bias surrounding medical professionals and care home staff that sees them being the most at-risk workers, even though there are millions of other workers putting their lives at risk.
He said that some of these workers don’t want to speak up about their concerns, but it is the role of the OSH professionals to be the voice of the voiceless.
He then leaves us with three messages to focus on in regards to mental health issues that may be present due to COVID-19:
- Have a plan to make regular contact with employees
- Make sure the plan isn’t just about work, but rather treating people as people
- Ensure that you have people within your organisation that have the skills to pull this off
The issues surrounding sourcing PPE
Each of the speakers in this webinar were asked to introduce their organisations and what they have done to help tackle the issues they’ve had in regard to PPE in recent weeks and what challenges they faced along the way. Here are some of their key takeaways:
Adam Young, Marketing Director at Arco
Adam started his section by stating that there has been an almost infinite demand for PPE, but a very limited supply. He states that the demand came at a bad time, as it was timed with a lockdown in China that severely affected the PPE market. He also recognises that it’s not just an issue with creating the PPE that has caused PPE to become scarce, but it’s also raw materials that make up key components of PPE that are not being created.
He states that the biggest issue they are seeing at the moment is the market being flooded with fake PPE. Though he does mention that this isn’t a new problem, but in a time where organisations are desperately trying to source it, some organisations are just sourcing whatever they can get their hands on.
Nathan Shipley, PPE Group Certification Manager at BSI
Nathan started his section by informing the audience that the 13th March saw the EU Commission issue recommendation 2020/403 that essentially reduced the amount of testing involved in PPE for the healthcare industry as a result of a stretched supply of PPE.
As a response, BSI created technical specifications for respiratory devices, face shields, and isolation gowns/clothing. They’ve also been working closely with government departments on assessing products that have been held in storage and brought into the UK to ensure the products are safe. Finally, they’ve made 24 PPE and MED DEV standards freely available.
Some of the challenges they have faced along the way have been:
- The volume of enquiries they had been receiving
- New market entrants that may not be as familiar with the regulations surrounding PPE
- Not enough testing time available
- Not having the capacity to carry out enough testing
- Being involved in a very fluid situation
Matthew Judson, Director & Respiratory and Technical Support at JSP
Where Adam & Nathan talked about the issue of getting hold of PPE, Matthew talks to us about the cleaning and reuse of PPE.
Matthew starts off by reiterating the fact that not all PPE can be washed and reused as the equipment will simply not live up to the standard it was before it was cleaned.
He then talks about the importance of having a clean-shaven face when wearing a mask, as human hair is far bigger than the Coronavirus and it would make for an easy passage into the mask. This is supported by a demonstration video of a man wearing a mask with a full beard, then stubble, then being clean-shaven - as you may guess, the results for the clean-shaven face proved best.
Finally, he defines what PPE actually is, and what isn’t considered PPE. As an example, he shows us images of people using face masks with exhable valves that are available to purchase online. However, these will not do a good job in stopping the spread of the virus.
Mental health at work - achieving best practice in these challenging circumstances
Faye McGuinness, Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes at Mind
Faye opened up her talk by introducing the audience to some statistics surrounding mental health and the workplace, with the key one being that mental health issues cost UK organisations about £45 billion a year. She adds that £29 billion of this is down to presenteeism costs (where an employee is still at work but not being able to be as productive as they could be).
A few key points that Faye mentions about tackling mental health issues at work include:
- Organisations should be assisting employees in personal development whilst on furlough.
- Communication is key when making people understand why they are furloughed, and what the organisation will do in the coming months.
- Be wary that employees could be suffering at home, reflecting on the rise in domestic abuse cases and drug/alcohol abuse since lockdown.
Jan Golding, CEO of Roots HR
Jan opened up her talk by stating that employers have a duty of care to people who are furloughed - as they’re still their employees.
She advises that organisations need to do what they can to keep in touch with their employees, as communication is key in a time of uncertainty. As a result of this point, she states that video calls are a great way to interact with employees as they get a visual of who they are speaking to, making the chat more personal.
She reiterates the fact that we’re not just confined to our homes, but we are confined to our homes during a global pandemic. She states that organisations need to remember this, as it may not be being at home that is a cause of concern for employees.
Finally, she backs Faye’s point about offering support to employees during this time. However, she touches upon employees that have been made redundant, and organisations should do what they can to assist these individuals. One way companies can do this is by helping these individuals type up/update their CVs.
Ivan Robertson, Founding Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd
Ivan starts off by stating that mental wellbeing is way higher on organisations agendas than it has ever been before and that many companies have taken initiative to make contact with all of their employees, perhaps more so than before the pandemic.
He then goes on to talk about balancing workloads and how this can help the mental wellbeing of those within an organisation. He states that we need to think more about how we balance work. Also, he states that upon returning to work, employees will be slower to pick up full efficiency and that they need this time to balance their workloads.
Finally, he notes that overload and underload can be just as detrimental as each other. He mentions a Cambridge University study that found that even having 1 day a week at work significantly increases positive mental health.
This concludes the main takeaways that we took from our sponsored webinars at Digital Week 2020. We thoroughly hope that you enjoyed the week of content and that it has offered you valuable insight into how organisations are coping through the current climate.