Are your workforce ready for it Physically &/or Mentally?
This week sees many workers returning to work who have been at home furloughed for the last 10-12 weeks. It is down to employers and managers to ensure that they consider both the physical and mental health of their employees and the damage that could be caused by returning to work after such a long break.
It has been reported that some professional sportsmen have been anxious about their fitness now sport may be returning. Remember, these are professional sportsmen who are normally at the peak of fitness. have probably all kept themselves reasonably fit during this lockdown and kept up with much of their training.
However, can the same be said for the average worker? Thought must be given to those that have been off work, perhaps very isolated at home, eating, drinking and doing a lot of sedentary activities. Usual job tasks have not been practiced and these workers could now be considered a high risk and ‘unfit’ for duty initiating one of the biggest return to work programs ever faced by employers and health and safety managers.
So, employers must consider what early intervention programs and processes they need to be put in place immediately to stop problems escalating. All exposures surrounding this imminent problem need mitigating including the consideration not just of the physiological impacts but of the psychosocial concerns arising from the pandemic that will be playing a part in capacity, presentation and conduct of these employees.
Physiological and Psycho-social impacts on the person.
Over the last 10 to 12 weeks your employees have probably been leading a sedentary lifestyle. Now whilst this may have given them time to rest, the many side effects are not beneficial to their health and well-being. They may well have gained weight, seen a decline in their aerobic capacity, be showing signs of muscle wastage or even noticed a decrease in proprioception.
I have recently read a report by Amy Hope, Chief Ergonomist and Osteopath from Soter Analytics in which she explains
“Muscle strength can fall after just two weeks of inactivity, and those with more muscle strength to begin with will lose more. Other activities such as cycling can help to regain muscle mass, but muscle strength on the other hand requires using weights like those lifted or handled before. It can also take more than three times the amount of time to regain the strength lost through immobility.
The other very significant aspect to be aware of is proprioception. Proprioception deteriorates with sedentary lifestyle. This is the body’s way of understanding the position of itself in space, or body position awareness. This is important in manual handling tasks, as understanding whether your own body is following the positions outlined in training or taking positions that may cause harm is key in understanding workers own risk.”
As well as the physical changes that your employees may have experienced, there are probably mental health risk factors that may be present as a by-product from the Coronavirus lockdown. These also need to be part of your overall approach to maintaining safety.
Remember that the effects of physical exposures are increased when any psycho-social factors are also involved. Anxiety is one of the largest and research shows that when a person’s anxiety is above its normal level, their immune system can, as a result, be weakened.
Some of your staff may have been furloughed whilst others have worked throughout. This can be a cause of anxiety for the ones who were furloughed, “why was I set aside? – will I still have a job afterwards?” It can also be a cause of jealousy in those who worked through “You’ve had it easy on 80% pay for doing nothing whilst I’ve been here slogging away”
Other areas that can cause increased mental health worries are:
Lower predictability in work caused by disturbances or unexpected changes – this represents a salient health hazard;
Stress – especially those employees exposed to public areas and anxiety relating to social distancing;
Role or work conflicts due to changes of staffing, downsizing, restructuring;
Time pressures – frustration in not being able to do the work at the same pace, especially if they are paid based on efficiency/picks;
Concentration might need to be trained;
Fatigue likely to be a greater and cause drop in safety critical attention span or alertness;
Increase in likelihood of errors due to any of the factors above.
Early intervention programs for return to work
Businesses will also need to consider enhanced health surveillance provision for staff as identifying people who may be infected with Covid-19, or who have been in close personal contact with an infected person, and then isolating them from work for a period until they are clear of infection is considered to be a key control measure.
Typical support would include risk assessment reviews / development, identification of vulnerable staff, development of pre-return to work confidential health assessments, mental health training for managers and other designated staff, information and guidance, etc.
Most injuries develop slowly, and supervisors do not know how to support workers who start to feel pain and often nothing is done.
Early intervention programs can assist workers to take note and simply be aware of their moving bodies especially as they are returning from time off, it is imperative to make sure they focus on best movement practice, stretching and strengthening exercises. Workers should be advised to listen to their body, understand how to recognise the early signs and symptoms of possible injury and how to prevent it.
A standard early intervention program specialising in building awareness, coaching around safe movement and easy correction that clearly outlines the implications of ignoring signs not only helps protect from injury but facilitates and encourages an early reporting culture. Early interventions stops the hesitation and stigma around early reporting and empowers employees to take control of their own bodies.
Employees need to be coached and assisted with developing their physical awareness to determine if their discomfort is arising from muscles simply waking back up or if there is potential for injury. You should have systems ready to go with immediate clear strategies that workers are aware of to assist those who are feeling discomfort due to returning to work. This not only supports them physically but psychologically it has an impact on any possible feelings of anxiety or stress.
Expectations of efficiency also need to be assessed. Especially now if workers are struggling financially and want to make money yet they are restricted by social distancing measures etc. There will be a tendency for workers to want to move faster but considering all the physiological or psycho-social impacts after time off from a pandemic, this is not the time.
Workers cannot be expected to hit the road running as soon as they return. Other restrictions as a result of COVID 19 will prevent this. Safety aware company bosses might want to reach out to support the fitness and well-being of their workers now to help with this, to build a foundation of strength rather than waiting until the first day of work. Work hardening and building employees back up to the stamina that they need to work and prevent problems.
This current situation of many workers returning from time off, is a great opportunity for employers to assess their workforce, connect, re-calibrate and monitor strength levels, fatigue, emotions, pain or any of the factors that influence movement behaviour. Work together to provide the best possible chance of minimising strain on these workers’ bodies and reduce the occurrence of recordable injures and related costs.
The Wilkins Safety Group’s NEW COVID-19: Assurance Assessment Service
The Wilkins Safety Group are now offering an assurance assessment service that focuses on five elements of business recovery and will help support your business take stock of the present situation and then grow in the future
We are offering professional support, guidance and independent assurance to enable companies to develop and ensure they have suitable Covid controls within the workplace.
Our technical support can provide you with the independent assurance that your COVID-19 workplace safety, health and environmental arrangements are in accordance with current guidance and best practice as a minimum standard.
We can also support you as the guidelines, requirements and circumstances change to ensure your workplace remains as safe and healthy as is reasonably practicable.
The following five factors provide the framework for the consultancy services:
- Organisational context (risk management)
- Operational processes (risk assessment, safe operating procedures, etc)
- Health and wellbeing
- Stakeholder engagement
- Facilities and workplace health and safety (workplace adjustments, etc).
Our technical support includes:
- Risk assessment reviews
- Support for workplace procedure development and reviews (including social distancing, health surveillance, workplace control measures, emergency planning, PPE, etc)
- Health and wellbeing guidance (including mental health factors)
- Communication and information
- Leadership and behavioural factors
- Assurance auditing.
Perhaps the most critical aspect of a return to the workplace. Compliance with statutory regulations has not been removed during the pandemic, therefore we can provide guidance in respect to this matter for clients who are seeking to return to offices, shops, factories or warehouses
Revised procedures and arrangements may well require physical adjustments within the workplace in respect of access, egress, emergency event management, use of equipment, PPE, cleaning regimes, use of elevators, movement and flow of persons within the premises, waste management, social distancing controls, welfare and hygiene controls, etc
Typical support would include review and/or development of workplace controls, processes, based upon relevant risk assessment outcomes and relevant national and sector guidelines.
As part of this support we will provide you with Your COVID-19 Five-Point Action Plan and, on completion, your Covid 19 Secure Certificate
This is new territory for all of us, but for almost 30 years we’ve been a trusted guide to excellent health, safety and environmental management. Our experience will help you achieve the very highest health, safety and wellbeing standards, so you can protect your people, your reputation and your bottom line.
To find out more about how we can help you plan for the return to work, please contact us on 01458 253682 or email.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) and Pandemic Awareness E-Course
This online eLearning course is the essential Coronavirus (Covid-19) and pandemic awareness training that has been developed to provide vital awareness for staff and employees of any business.
Using a combination of text, images, video and interactive content the eLearning course looks at how pandemics and epidemics are spread and the potential risks in the workplace as well as how to protect yourself from being infected. It includes the latest health advice for Coronavirus as well as the symptoms to look out for and what to do if you think you’ve been infected. Crucially, it also provides a practical video on how to wash your hands.
In addition, the course covers information on how viruses are transmitted and the control measures to take to reduce transmission and infection. It looks at high risk groups, isolation as well as the chain of infection.
Importantly, the online training course will help to minimise the impact to your business and staff. The information contained in the course provides advice on preventative measures and what to do if further action is required.
As with our CPD accredited courses the SCORM compliant Coronavirus (Covid-19) and pandemic awareness training allows businesses to quickly and easily deploy pandemic training to a workforce. The simple-to-use learning platform provides an audit trail for all employees and stores their training records.
By the end of the Coronavirus and Pandemic Awareness course you will have learned about:
- Description of the Coronavirus
- Proportionate measures
- How to stay safe – Hygiene advice
- Facts or fiction
- What to do if you feel unwell
- Covid-19 advice
- Bulk buying – Fact or fiction
- Self-isolation advice
- Touching your face – fact or fiction
- The difference between an endemic, epidemic and pandemic
- Recent pandemics
- High risk groups
- Introduction to viruses
- Transmission from hard surfaces
- Hygiene advice
- Flu vaccinations
- Treating symptoms
- Face masks advice
- The chain of infection
- Incubation and infection
- Sources of information
Pandemic Awareness: COVID-19 course content
- Understanding Pandemics
- How Viruses Spread
- The Chain of Infection
Who should complete this course?
The Pandemic Awareness: COVID-19 course is designed for all employees at all levels.
Prior Learning? – None required
Pre Course learning? – None required
Certification – All learners who successfully complete the module will be issued with a certificate of learning
Duration – Approximately 20 minutes
What is the cost of this course?
Companies will be able to buy credits. Each of these credits will allow 1 allocated person access to 1 course. The cost of these credits will reduce based on the number of credits purchased. See pricing chart below:
All online training courses are reduced by 20% for the next few weeks. The discount will be applied at the checkout automatically.
Remember – There is no limit on the time it takes to use the credits