employee wearing mask as part of managing health risks in the workplace

Managing Workplace Health Risks: 5 Lessons from the Field

5 Expert Tips on Managing Health Risks in the Workplace

Maintaining a hazard-free environment is a key component in building confidence in the workplace. By reducing related risk factors, teams can work efficiently without worrying about their health and safety. This can improve morale, productivity, engagement, and dramatically reduce absenteeism.

 However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, existing guidelines for risk assessment are no longer sufficient. In late 2020, a group of medical researchers found that current Industrial Health (IH) tools designed to minimize workplace hazards are still unspecific about controlling infectious diseases and outbreaks.

On top of COVID-19 worries, flu season is also right around the corner. How can you use risk management tactics to continue ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for your team? Here are five key points Go Evo’s experts have taken from the field.

1. Educate!

One of the easiest, low-cost ways to maintain workplace health and safety is keeping your team updated on local health regulations and recommendations. As these are often changing, make sure you’re always looking at the most updated sources.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) offers valuable resources in assessing occupational exposures with the ARECC process (Anticipate, Recognize, Evaluate, Control, Confirm). For flu and COVID-related information, look to  your local government or public health resources for statistics and recommendations specific to your location.

Try making a routine of sharing updated, easy-to-read information via monthly emails, or use a document hub, like the one available in Go Evo’s Personal Protective Application (PPA), so your workforce can have easy access to training materials and more.

2. Create a culture of good health

When it comes to managing health risks, staying proactive is critical. Get ahead by building a culture of good health around your workplace, starting with little things like a constant supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizers to encourage frequent washing during flu season and COVID-19. The addition of engineering controls such as high-efficiency air filters, increased ventilation, and physical barriers can also promote a constant awareness of health and safety in work environments.

 Keep the workplace safe with proper screening procedures for workers and require self-assessments before they come into work. That way, you can catch early signs of colds, flu, and COVID-19 before it spreads. The use of screening and test tracking technologies can help you efficiently manage workplace health and keep an eye on potential risks.

3. Keep track of potential hazards with a qualitative approach

While the AIHA risk assessment model can efficiently manage chemical hazards in the workplace using quantitative methods, an article published by Toxicology and Industrial Health encourages a qualitative approach when examining exposure risks of biological infections and diseases in the workplace.

You can monitor potential exposures by keeping a record of where everyone has been working throughout the day. Should there be any potential risks, notify those in close contact right away. Additionally, consider implementing more paperless processes to maintain social distancing and further minimize risk. Today, easy solutions allow you to remotely keep track of potential hazards with reliable qualitative data and records.

4. Don’t forget about mental health

Amid COVID-19 and flu season, physical health factors have been at the center of attention when it comes to workplace health. However, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 has increased stress and other mental health issues that should also be addressed and communicated throughout the workplace.

In a recent survey, around 49% of respondents anticipated their return to the office will negatively impact their mental health. To address these doubts, businesses and employers can implement open communications for remote workers to mimic the social rhythms of an office to ease the transition.

Try starting by setting aside dedicated times for casual conversations to encourage more spontaneous connections and interactions where everyone can feel comfortable expressing non-work-related issues, including their physical and mental health. Not only will this help ease the transition back into the office, but it will also open up a space for honest conversations that will continue as they begin to return to the workplace.

5. Develop emergency communication plans

If someone doesn’t feel well enough to come into the office, a proper procedure to report symptoms and communicate challenges can help streamline your company’s health and prevention measures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an emergency communication plan that includes:

  • Accessible, coordinated communication platforms
  • Key messages on safety and prevention (as relevant to the workplace)
  • Health and safety resources, readily available in different languages

Additionally, make sure to give employees ample opportunities to provide feedback and questions on the process so it can be specified to their needs. By implementing an emergency communication plan that reflects your employees’ priorities, you can promote a safer work environment that they can feel comfortable returning to.

Keep the Conversation Going

Ultimately, businesses should continue to educate their teams so they can self-monitor their symptoms and, in case of exposure, keep track of high-risk areas in the workplace using qualitative data and measurements. By keeping an easy-to-use, private channel of monitoring and talking about sickness or fatigue, employers will also lighten the mental stress of returning to the office, and successfully maintain a workplace that is healthy on all fronts.

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