It should come as no surprise that employee health and safety need to be top priorities in any workplace. However, what may come as a surprise is that business owners need to update those health and safety standards regularly. Altering your guidelines in accordance with growing health and safety concerns will help ensure your company doesn’t fall behind in areas like COVID-19 prevention. This guide to some of the top occupational safety and health issues of 2020 will help you navigate the growing workplace concerns across the country promptly and effectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created workplace health and safety hazards on a global scale. Indoor workplaces like warehouses and manufacturing facilities are certainly not exempt from this hazard, which means facilities need to begin implementing COVID-19 prevention into daily workflow. One of the most significant issues with COVID-19 is that employees can have it and begin showing symptoms within two days, or even as long 14 days, while others have shown no symptoms at all. Those infected with the virus not showing symptoms are commonly referred to as “asymptomatic.”
To combat the spread of COVID-19 in your facility, enforce proper hygiene among employees, such as frequent handwashing, especially after touching their eyes, nose, or mouth for any reason. Furthermore, place handwash stations throughout the facility for employees to use conveniently whenever a situation calls for it. You should also consider implementing social distancing and staggered shifts to minimize potential spread of the virus between employees.
Furthermore, you should implement a new disinfecting process. Hopefully, you already had a cleaning process in place, but in the wake of COVID-19, disinfecting the workplace and the equipment within it needs to be more thorough and frequent than ever. You should also supply and enforce COVID-19 safety PPE (personal protective equipment) among employees, including masks, face shields, goggles, and gloves.
If you notice an employee is beginning to show signs of illness (cough, sneezing, etc.), then send them home. This principle was important for potential illnesses before COVID, and the necessity for monitoring potential illnesses in the workplace has grown more vital since the pandemic struck earlier this year. Encourage employees to report hygiene issues like sick coworkers or coworkers not washing their hands in the workplace. In fact, you should encourage employees to monitor their own health as well and reach out if they ever learn that they are or could potentially be infected with COVID-19.
Since the developing COVID-19 situation can shift drastically, employers need to stay up to date on all the proper prevention guidelines. If you don’t already have a COVID-19 response plan in place, develop one immediately.
We’re not here to look down on those who smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana/cannabis/etc., but the legalization of it does pose potential workplace hazards. As more and more states begin to legalize marijuana, with Illinois recently joining the club at the beginning of 2020, employers have to become more and more aware of whether or not employees are using it during work hours. Maybe you’re a fan of marijuana yourself, but even so, forklift operators shouldn’t be high when they’re driving around the workplace or securing loads to the forks. Alcohol is legal, after all, and we wouldn’t tolerate anyone drinking at work, so the same principles must be applied to all substances with the potential to impair judgment, mental processes, or physical performance.
The problem with marijuana in the workplace is that, as it currently stands, determining how harshly it can impair employees is unclear, with further research needed to get the same type of hard facts we have regarding alcohol’s effect on the human body. That being said, according to a report from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a study was recently conducted within the postal industry that claimed employees who tested positive for marijuana had more injuries, industrial accidents, and absenteeism by a sizable margin than employees who tested negative.
This means that you should enforce a no-tolerance policy regarding drug use, especially for employees who have to carry out tasks like operating heavy machinery, which require a special level of focus, awareness, and effort. One way to combat marijuana use among employees is drug testing. Before doing that, of course, make sure to read up on your state’s drug and alcohol testing laws to ensure you’re testing employees legally and responsibly.
Fatigue is a growing concern in the workforce and it’s a bigger issue than some business owners might realize. Worker fatigue can increase the likelihood of issues like absenteeism, injuries, and overall diminished work efficiency. Just like you don’t want a high employee behind the wheel of a forklift—you don’t want a tired employee behind the wheel either.
Fatigue results from a number of factors, including but not limited to working overtime, not having a comfortable area to take breaks, and insufficient break time. Fatigue can also stem from employees improperly carrying out physical tasks, so be sure to monitor employee performance in the workplace on a daily basis.
In the event that you or another supervisor in the facility notices an employee improperly carrying out a physical task, use a forklift training refresher course to reeducate them on the right work practices. At First Quality Forklift Training, our ultimate forklift training package includes a refresher training video you can use to sharpen the minds of forklift operators who might be wavering too far outside of your safety guidelines. Monitoring employee performance is something any employer should prioritize if they want to improve health and safety standards in the workplace.
Now that you’re more familiar with some of the top occupational safety and health issues of 2020, you can begin working hard at preventing them from hindering your workflow. Fatigue has been a long-standing problem, so addressing it in your workplace shouldn’t be too difficult if you know the best ways to do it. The recent events of marijuana legalization and the COVID-19 pandemic make these issues a challenge to address, but you must do your part by trying.