COVID-19 Outbreak: Prepare for Increase in Injuries

March 19 2020
By: Shawn M. Galloway

With the outbreak of COVID-19, we are facing unprecedented times affecting everyone, personally. With these new challenges, we must find new ways to meet them. Unfortunately, over the last two weeks, several companies with long histories of good safety performance are reporting an increase in injuries. With the ban on travel, meetings, and small group events, an understandable (yet regrettable) trend is developing: many companies are canceling safety meetings and training. This is a moment of truth for companies across the globe. During this unprecedented crisis, it is not enough to JUST keep the message on safety top of mind. We all need to do better. A specific focus in safety is needed.

Consider the following analogy. When driving, we focus and scan. We focus on the lines on the road, or the curbs, as they help us navigate. We don't, however, just stare at these. We also scan our sector, watch the behavior of other vehicles, and look for pedestrians and animals. We focus and scan. COVID-19 Outbreak: Prepare for Increase in Injuries During a watershed moment (like the one we are all facing now), people are focused on the uncertainty and trying their best to scan for the things that might injure them. This is analogous to driving while talking or texting and focusing more on the conversation (that you shouldn't be having) than the road ahead. Dangerous, as we all know, but this is what is happening both on and off the job. People are justifiably distracted. We need to plan for the reality that injuries will likely increase with this loss of focus. Several clients are immediately acting on the following advice.

To develop a focus in, not just on safety, analyze your data or gather insight and answer these five vital questions:

  1. What are the big (high probability, high severity) risks, and have they changed in the recent past with the onset of COVID-19?
  2. What are the common (low-probability and severity uncertain) risks, and likewise, how are they changing?
  3. What precautions are required to overcome the big risks, and which precautions at the discretion of the employee are necessary to address the common risks?
  4. How will we get the answers to numbers 1-3 in the heads of the workforce while communication channels are temporarily compromised?
  5. How do you control the required precautions, and how will you influence and coach for the discretionary precautions with the limited ability to provide group or individual feedback?

During this pandemic, we must be hyper-focused within safety. Where possible, involve your workforce in this exercise, as greater ownership will come from involvement in the creation of these answers. Finally, challenge your employees to take these conversations home and discuss with their families.

I commit to you, we at ProAct Safety will keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry, so we can all make sense of this together.

We welcome your feedback and sharing of tactics that you find are working in the prevention of injuries during this confusing time.

On behalf of ProAct Safety, we wish each of you, your family, and friends a healthy body and a calm spirit in the days ahead.

Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.

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