In the summer of 2020, months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Safety + Health asked various opinion leaders and occupational safety and health practitioners: âDo you think the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on occupational safety and health and, if so, how?
Their responses were published in the July 2020 issue of S + H.
Over a year later, we got back to them (along with a few other experts) and asked follow-up questions about their predictions and lessons learned. Here is what they had to say.
How has your opinion changed over the past year as things have evolved? New ideas?
Our views on the future of occupational safety and health have not changed as much over the past year as they have evolved. Knowing that COVID-19 is an airborne hazard, I hope, means employers are more aware of the importance of ventilation in controlling it. A ventilation plan is a key element in minimizing risks and having a hierarchy of controls. But no single action is enough to eliminate all risks, so employers need a layered approach that includes steps such as vaccinations, respiratory protection and distancing. We must also continue to tackle mental health issues that have intensified as a result of the pandemic. Finally, our industry’s efforts to protect workers from COVID-19 must not prevent us from sustaining and expanding our response to other persistent dangers such as falls, MSDs and silica.
– Chris Trahan Cain, Executive Director, CPWR – Construction Research and Training Center
I’d like to double down on what I said in 2020: The pandemic silver lining is a renewed emphasis on workplace safety, which is paying off in unexpected ways. We will need the help of every security professional to keep the focus on security and combat âcautious fatigueâ as we continue to learn to live and work with COVID-19. We must maintain our hard-won progress.
– Lorraine M. Martin, President and CEO, National Security Council
At ASSP, we believe that some aspects of the pandemic have accelerated the trends and that a normal environment may look different for OSH professionals in the future than in the past. We will see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to be aware of the risks and controls needed in the near future while taking into account the lessons learned from COVID-19 in the long term.
– Deborah Roy, past president of ASSP
(2020-2021 term ended June 30)
As for the security profession getting its foot in the door with the C suite, I hope this will continue. I am not sure, however. Once the pandemic is gone, will the C-suite start thinking, “Well, we’ve got a good security program.” We don’t have to worry much about safety â? The security profession certainly has more visibility, but I still hope this will continue when we don’t have a pandemic. It is up to security professionals to do what they did during the pandemic to show how they can help businesses keep operating and how they can improve a company’s bottom line.
Once the pandemic is over, I think the security profession needs to focus more on assessing risks and dangers. You are going to have to show that we still have safety and health risks here in the workplace that can hurt our employees. We need to identify them and work with production, maintenance and quality so that these groups recognize the work evaluations made and what is identified as safety risks.
– Edwin Foulke Jr., lawyer and former OSHA administrator
Looking back, the analysis was correct. Most of the content of the article has become reality. The potential of remote virtual audits has been tested. Developers can create a 3D image of the installation. This would allow an auditor to perform a virtual check for hazards that may be present. For training, the student could view a facility and try to determine the hazards present there. It’s much better than taking pictures of an area and assessing the dangers that come with it. Local emergency response planning groups might have a good idea of ââthe dangers they may face when approaching an emergency, fire, or hazardous materials incident.