Health and Safety at Work during Covid-19 Pandemic
Working landscape, culture and conditions have changed permanently, or perhaps for the foreseeable future. Even though words like teleworking, telelearning and telehealth have become household jargon; occupational safety and health (OSH) is still important.
As we celebrate the international day of Health and Safety at Work in the month of April, it is pertinent to reflect last 12 months which have been different from every other year.
Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in early March 2020. Working landscape, culture and conditions have changed permanently, or perhaps for the foreseeable future. Even though words like teleworking, telelearning and telehealth have become household jargon; occupational safety and health (OSH) is still important.
Teleworking brought to the fore new workplace health issues. Workplace has become an ironic term, considering most employees are working remotely. We have published blogs on healthcare issues during the covid-19 pandemic. Mental health issues on top of the list are depression and anxiety.
Lack of physical activity leads to weight gain and maladies associated with it. Prolonged sitting predisposes to blood clots in legs which are potentially fatal. Poor ergonomics and posture give rise to musculoskeletal problems such as pain in the neck, back, arms and legs.
As businesses open, owners must figure a way to keep people employed and maintain a healthy work environment, both onsite and remote. Prevention is key. For optimal prevention work force should be educated on various health aspects depending on the industry. While sanitizers have become a part of human culture there are myriad other essential areas of prevention.
Early recognition of depression, impairment of physical ability, optimal posture/stance for a particular activity and workplace mental stimulation to mention a few. Focus should be on both mental and physical health.
It is advisable to moving about frequently, taking breaks from tasks at hand, maintaining optimal posture, stretching hourly and staying hydrated. Work environment should gear toward healthy lifestyle to ensure health and safety at work – which is essentially homes of the employees these days.
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Businesses can adopt online health streaming sites that share tips on types of exercise (yoga, Pilates, walking, jogging, muscle toning, core training etc.), duration of exercise, dietary advise, self-screening (breast cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and symptoms of various diseases).
Employee lounges can have activities that stimulate mental activity such as sudoku, crosswords, chess/checkers, and light physical activity like ping pong. It is scientifically known that productivity improves when short breaks are taken with attention away from the task at hand.
Online community (online employee lounges) can be established and used for mental and physical activities mentioned above. Such activities with colleagues can lead to improved camaraderie and positive impact on overall heath, employee retention and productivity.
Businesses can be creative in incentivizing physical activity; like recognizing in an employee forum the person with highest step count every month. Gifts can be in cash or kind. Healthy workforce means financially healthy business.
A healthy mind and body imply a strong immune system. Stronger immune system can better defend prevailing and future infectious agents and pandemics.
At mHospital we had proposed VITAE (vertically integrated technologically aligned ecosystem) for health care prior to pandemic. In this system healthcare is delivered efficiently by utilizing and optimizing available technology. With this model redundancies in healthcare delivery are curtailed.
SMART (Smart Medical Access, Response and Treatment) model provides instant care using technology with available doctors and diagnostic facilities. Healthcare providers order diagnostic tests required to confirm diagnosis and treat patient online. Laboratory and imaging facilities coordinate with the patient to schedule test. Results are available to practitioner and patient instantly.
Businesses should also consider ways to get employees immediate health care attention utilizing current technology. Employers can partner with healthcare organizations that follow the VITAE and SMART model. These two advanced approaches applied simultaneously can increase the efficiency of health and safety at work significantly.
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With these models, employees are evaluated immediately by telemedicine and doctor on site if desired. Employees do not have to go to the emergency rooms or urgent care centers to seek healthcare. The drive to the ER or urgent care and the time it takes to get seen by healthcare provider (medical doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant) is at least 2-4 hours. Even if one utilizes the current ‘wait online’ apps, the average wait time is at least one hour.
Besides employees getting their healthcare needs addressed immediately, the businesses benefit in decreased employees’ time loss and improved productivity. It is conceivable that workman’s insurance premium would decrease as well.
Misfortune of Covid-19 pandemic gave mankind an opportunity to analyze and harness technology for better workplace solutions. We should be thinking continuously of ways to prevent future pandemics and how to be as safe as possible if we were to have a misfortune or a disaster.