In the last several years, thousands of new warehouses have been added to the industry with a forecast to increase to 180,000 by 2025. Working in a light industrial workplace poses a medium exposure risk to COVID-19 as the need to transport and contain goods depends on mobility regulations and restrictions.
Recommendations for managing post-pandemic workplace safety and health have been forwarded by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state and federal legislators. Wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, practicing social distancing, and getting vaccinated are still highly recommended.
Recognizing that COVID-19 is a workplace hazard is a step forward in addressing the issue of light industrial workplace safety and health. Here are ways to prioritize safety and health in your light industrial workplace.
Follow Existing Safety and Health Control Measures
Implementing existing safety and health control measures improves the trust your employees have. These measures can include monitoring employees with comorbidities and conducting regular welfare checks. Employees with comorbidities are known to have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19. Performing regular checks and risk analyses and providing support when needed will ensure stability in employee productivity.
The CDC still encourages getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent symptoms from progressing severely. Providing incentives to citizens and employees for getting the COVID-19 vaccine has gotten common. For employees who choose to be unvaccinated, the management should follow existing protocols to prevent an outbreak.
In this post-pandemic society, many employees return to their respective offices. Such movement within the population can increase infection, transmission, and evolution of newer strains.
Provide Safety and Health Training Specific to COVID-19
Providing safety and health training to multiple employees can feel empowering. It can mitigate the effects on labor reduction in the event of an outbreak. Having only one safety and health officer is not enough if an outbreak occurs. First-aid responders among your employees can easily help those with symptoms, thus preventing the spread of the infection further.
You can also implement an isolation protocol specific to your light industrial workplace. An employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 can be placed in an isolation room for testing or request an early clock out. Guidelines on first aid response for COVID-19 are readily available online. Your own safety and health training can include a COVID-19 committee with point persons for each department and a sound action plan if an infection does occur.
Be Active Partners with Your Workforce
Feeling trusted and included in the workplace management can help address feelings of burnout. Your employees have the on-the-ground gauge of the day-to-day processes. Including your employees in the conversation on how to navigate this post-pandemic environment can help them feel more trusted in matters that directly affect them and their work.
Include them in the risk analysis and control measure processes. Request that they be honest and open about their health and the situation in their respective homes and communities. Creating a safe space for your employees to be honest allows for their active participation in ensuring the safety and health of the light industrial workplace.
Streamline Communication Links
With multiple messaging platforms for businesses, it can be tricky to communicate urgent matters to employees such as community outbreaks and changes in state and federal laws on COVID-19 or any health emergency. Choosing a specific communication avenue can help your management and employees be updated all at once.
Establishing convenient communication lines through the safety and health officer or company medical professional regarding post-pandemic protocols will help your employees feel at ease even before a potential outbreak happens. Whether you are using MS Teams, Slack or RingCentral, creating one space for company updates and announcements allows priorities to be aligned.
Embrace Digital Warehousing and Automation
Digital warehousing and automation aim to help businesses support their customers better. Trends in digital technology and labor gaps impact warehousing technology and automation. Automation ensures that your human resources experience less fatigue and fewer chances of workplace injury. Digital management systems complement your staff and are one of the best ways to ensure social distancing among your employees.
Physical and digital automation can help your employees and you to focus more on your clients and customers. These can be costly at first, but the benefits can outweigh the initial costs. Real-time updates on inventory, easy access to data analytics and projections, and mitigated overhead labor costs due to sickness or injury are only a few of the benefits of digital warehousing.
Implement Logistical Adjustments
Physical distancing is still recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spreading of COVID-19. You can implement logistical adjustments that can also help lessen the stress on your employees coming back to the warehouse or offices. You can start by reviewing the office or warehouse layout.
Check the physical distancing of your employees’ workstations and if it’s possible to maintain the one-meter distance recommended by WHO. You can also schedule different lunch hours for different teams and departments to lessen the number of people crowding the same space during lunch breaks.
Consider the possibility of implementing remote work if the responsibilities of certain staff can be done at home. A hybrid work set-up where some of your staff can work at home on certain days of the week can also lessen their commute cost and reduce the risk of infection in the workplace. You can also look into temporary project spaces for urgent meetings or an actual overflow space if the current warehouse space is not enough.
COVID-19 and the Post-Pandemic Light Industrial Workplace
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways business is done. As restrictions ease and job sites increase their onsite employees, COVID-19 continues to be a potential hazard in any safety and health checklist. Being adaptive requires quick and well-thought-of reactions to changes and challenges with COVID-19 in mind.
Yes, COVID-19 is here to stay. Even until herd immunity is reached, the changes we applied during the pandemic and now will still resonate. Protecting your employees is protecting your business. So, adapting to the changes in the public health regulations and being active partners with your workforce ensures smoother business operations.
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