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Health & Safety in 2020 and what to expect in 2021

Health & Safety in 2020 and what to expect in 2021

For many, 2020 has been a difficult year, full of change; many people have had extended time off work, returning intermittently to work, some have sadly lost their jobs and for most, it’s meant being stuck inside their homes for a very, very long time. All of which are majorly different from most of our normal working routines.

These are some of the more obvious results of COVID-19, but the pandemic has had a major impact on a number of other areas, including Health & Safety.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the key areas of Health & Safety COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on and look ahead to what awaits us in 2021.

Infection Prevention

It goes without saying that many employers who kept their doors open would have been focussing on infection prevention and control.

Infection Prevention dates back to 1850, where Louis Pasteur helped to prove that germs were the cause of disease. Since then, society has progressed remarkably in learning how to control these germs so that we become ill less often.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that simple measures (if followed routinely) are the best way of preventing disease.

We’ve had to keep 2 metres apart, frequently wash our hands, and avoided contact with people where possible.

Whilst this has, and still is, continuing to cause problems for organisations, it’s solving bigger problems in the long run, hence the reason Infection Prevention and creating COVID secure workplaces has been at the top of the Health & Safety agenda over the last year.

Working From Home

Remote working had been rising in popularity before the national lockdown, but when the government advised the public to work from home where possible back in March, many organisations were thrown into the deep end and had to adapt to remote working. 

At first, many companies showed reluctance towards this, but were simply given no choice when it was enforced. Many organisations have since successfully embraced remote working, with many reporting better productivity, wellbeing and reduced costs.

However, it’s important to remember that homeworking does come with its own Health & Safety risks, including:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Fire
  • Lifting
  • Electrical equipment
  • DSE & Posture

Many employers, as is their legal duty, have recognised these risks and taken appropriate measures to ensure their staff have a safe working environment outside of the workplace.

Returning to Work

Almost a complete opposite to the last point, getting employees to return to work has been another huge task on the agenda for many organisations. And the number one thing organisations have needed to consider when getting employees to return to work has been how to do it safely.

Employers must consider physical factors that could pose a risk to employees returning to work, such as whether there is enough space to maintain social distancing, where they should locate handwashing stations, is it possible to introduce a one-way system in the workplace, and how can sharing equipment be kept to a minimum.

However, there are also a number of psychological factors employers must consider, like whether employees will feel comfortable working on-site during the pandemic, how the pandemic has affected their mental health, and how to help employees to manage any anxious thoughts, which brings us on to our next point...

Mental Health

Most employers understand that their employees would have some concerns about returning to work, and many employers have pushed mental health and wellbeing up the agenda to ensure that these concerns are handled well upon returning to work.

In addition to this, employers have had to deal with mental health risks associated with working from home. The best thing an organisation can do is ensure that employees understand they can ask for help and know that they are not alone.

Since the start of the pandemic, common anxieties resulting from COVID-19 have included finances, isolation, and health, all of which have presented issues to the mental health of the public. 

Homeworkers are more likely to feel isolated compared to those who are still in the workplace, and this can contribute to a lack of motivation and increased anxiety.

To tackle this, employers have ensured that they’re frequently catching up with homeworkers, ensuring line managers are in touch with their teams, providing their staff with mental health first aiders, and providing their staff with Mental Health & Wellbeing Training.

Read more about why mental health has stepped up the Health & Safety agenda here.

First Aid

With many first aid training facilities closing during the pandemic, it began to look like there would be a shortage of qualified first aiders throughout 2020. 

However, the HSE recently announced that they’re supporting the use of Online First Aid Refresher Training during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that organisations don’t have to wait months for the few face-to-face training providers that have reopened to have availability for them.

The HSE stated that the use of these refresher courses as an alternative training method would be the most sensible thing for employers to do if they couldn’t access more traditional means of First Aid training.

Read more here about First Aid Training during COVID-19 here.

A summary of the key HSE statistics

A few weeks ago, the HSE published their annual report on workplace Health & Safety statistics, and we have seen some interesting changes through 2020. Some of the key statistics include:

  • 111 fatal injuries.
  • 693,000 non-fatal injuries.
  • 29% of non-fatal injuries were as a result of slips, trips, and falls.
  • 1.6 million people are suffering from work-related ill-health.
  • 347,000 people suffering from a new case of work-related stress, depression, or anxiety.

You can check out more of these key statistics on our infographic!

What to expect in 2021

As we come to the end of this strange year, many of us are wondering what 2021 has in stock for us, and those working in the Health & Safety profession are likely asking themselves whether 2021 is going to prove to be just as difficult as this year.

Unfortunately, we can’t predict the future… entirely. But we’ve taken the time to analyse Health & Safety trends and keep up-to-date with industry news, which has given us a pretty good idea of what to expect in the New Year.

Homeworking is here to stay

A report from Business Insider shows that many major companies continue to work from home, with no intentions of returning to the workplace any time soon.

Where organisations were, in a sense, thrown in the deep end when it came to trialling homeworking for the first time, many were surprised at just how productive their workforce was when away from the workplace. For this reason, many organisations see little value in returning to their old ways of working.

Read more here about why homeworking is here to stay for a while.

Changes to COSHH legislation

As of the 1st of January 2021, Great Britain will have its own framework for COSHH that will reflect the EU BPR framework, however, it will operate independently.

This was to be expected after it was made official that the UK left the EU. This is essentially the UK’s way of duplicating various EU laws related to chemicals, and then renaming them to make them UK-only legislation.

With these changes to the COSHH legislation, organisations that supply chemicals will deal with the HSE as the GB CLP Agency instead of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Additionally, there are changes to legislation to those working with biocides and pesticides, as well as a number of changes surrounding REACH and PIC.

See our blog on the January 2021 COSHH update.

Mental Health & Wellbeing will move higher up the agenda

We’ve already seen Mental Health & Wellbeing rapidly move up the agenda of employers since the start of the pandemic. Most employers recognise that they have legal and moral duty to ensure the wellbeing of their employees is in their best interests.

With that said, it is becoming increasingly evident that it also makes sense for employers to take care of their employees’ mental wellbeing from a business perspective too. In fact, it is said for every £1 an organisation invests in it’s employees mental health, they can expect to see an average of a £5 return.

Safely returning to work

Although there will be a number of organisations that stick with a remote workforce, there will still be many organisations where it is not completely practicable to remain working from home.

Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel with major developments on successful vaccinations seemingly round the corner. Some of these vaccines are expected to gain emergency approval, meaning that they could possibly be rolled out in the UK as soon as January.

Undoubtedly, once these vaccinations are rolled out, employers will have more flexibility when it comes to choosing where their employees will work.

Employers must remember the essentials

This may not exactly be a trend, but it is certainly something that we hope to see in 2021.

Many employers are going to be busy preparing for the New Year, and making sure that workplaces are COVID-secure, but this must not lead to employers neglecting some of their most essential duties.

We still hope to see employers take action on reducing workplace risks by training their staff in essential areas like DSE, Fire Awareness, Manual Handling, and Food Safety.

Normally, this goes without saying. However, we understand that this is the busiest time of year for organisations without a pandemic, so we expect a busy winter.

Fortunately, we’re here to help...

Sorting Health & Safety Training for the New Year

Here at iHASCO, we have been providing thousands of UK workplaces with high-quality eLearning for well over a decade, and we’re always keeping an eye out for ways in which we can help organisations work towards creating safer workplaces.

For this reason, we have been keeping a close eye on Health & Safety trends over the last year and ensuring that we update/release courses which can tackle Health & Safety issues workplaces are currently experiencing.

Some of these courses include:

But we offer a lot more than that. With over 100 courses in our library, including Health & Safety Training, HR Compliance Training, and Business Compliance Training topics, we almost certainly have courses that your organisation would benefit from.

If you’re interested in seeing what we have to offer, fill out the form below and you can try any of our courses for free!

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