April 29 2020
By: Terry L. Mathis
We have known for decades that workers can only focus on a limited number of safety issues at a time. We also know that they tend to prioritize their prevention efforts on either the most potentially severe accidents or the most common ones. With all the efforts to flatten the curve of the pandemic, it would be easy for workers to shift their focus from preventing workplace accidents to preventing contracting the virus. If this shift occurs, accident rates could increase significantly. This is not just speculative. Several of our clients have reported experiencing this exact issue.
Increased accident rates present another problem. Hospitals and clinics are focused on COVID-19 prevention and less adequately staffed to take care of more common problems like workplace accidents. Additionally, health care facilities could present increased exposure to the virus since it can be spread by people who are pre-symptomatic.
Organizational leaders should style their communication about safety to give equal emphasis to prevention of disease and workplace injuries. They should stress the danger of focusing on one at the neglect of the other. We have tried diligently not to let production override safety. Now we need to make sure that disease prevention doesn't override traditional safety efforts.
Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.