Workplace Safety is HR's Biggest Challenge in 2020

As the world is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, millions of workers across the globe are slowly returning to their jobs. They are fearful more than ever that the environment they work in will be safe enough to continue as usual.

It is up to the good folks at HR departments worldwide to make sure workplace safety is not compromised in any way. Alongside the old safety challenges, there are going to be new issues concerning office hygiene.

Make health standards part of company culture

So far, the accent was on safety standards and their implementation but as 2020 progresses, health standards are becoming increasingly important. Therefore, they should be integrated into the company culture and be as important as office safety.

Moreover, health standards should find their way inside the recruiting and hiring process so prospective employees know that health is a priority for the firm’s management. Apart from their professionalism and expertise, newcomers need to adhere to newly-set health standards, which are noticeably higher than they were last year.

The HR department can write down all the precautions necessary for a safe work environment but unless they get the workforce to comply, their effort will in vain. As a result, in-house communication is more important now than ever.

Improved channels of communication

How many times have the HR people sent a circular e-mail that was never opened or posted something on the notice board that went unnoticed? Such poor communication should not be tolerated by top management in 2020.

Improved communication works both ways, as the HR department needs to carefully listen to all the needs and concerns of the employees. Those workers who take safety measures seriously are bonds to point out possible flaws in the company’s health and safety standards. By simply listening out to these individuals, HR people can learn a lot and get a first-hand account of how the measures they proscribed are working out in the field.

Updating warning signage around the office

The HR department is responsible for placing various safety signs in the office. However, the nature of dangers and hazards workers are exposed to is constantly shifting. For this reason, the signage needs to be updated to reflect new dangers. For example, signs like “Danger: Coronavirus Outbreak; Proceed with Caution, High Risk of Infection” are increasingly popular for reception areas in hospitals.

Furthermore, warning signs can always be better placed. There is no shame in repositioning or removing a hazard sign if the workers complain about its inefficiency. In fact, such a change will be living proof of the improved communication mentioned in the paragraph above.

Dealing with workplace violence

Apart from warning signs and technical difficulties, another problem in the workplace could be violence. Namely, people have been self-isolating for months during the first half of 2020, resulting in elevated stress levels. In such a volatile environment, all it takes for a fierce argument to start is a minor disagreement. 

Tackling rowdy and violent individuals might not be how the HR department envisions their profession but this is an important segment of their job. Workplace safety is a term that incorporates both keeping the employees safe from outside factors, as well as one from another.

What the employees are complaining about 

Some of the workers’ concerns will most certainly be related to technical details in the like of air temperature inside the office, insufficient greenery, poor food quality (if there is a canteen on the premises), inadequate lighting, electrical hazards (a faulty fax machine, for example), flaws in fire training procedures (a blocked fire exit), etc.

However, some of the concerns employees express will be new to the HR department. Not enough hand sanitizer or the request for bars of soap instead of liquid soap in the bathroom is something the HR people haven’t heard anyone complain about before. A quick look at the measures to stop COVID-19 in an office environment should be enough to handle these complaints.

No hazard is too small to be disregarded

People employed at an HR department in an office building often fail to realize all the dangers of the working environment. No, we are not referring to paper cuts but to trips and slips that are more frequent than one might think.

Workers tend to leave carts, boxes, and folders in hallways, creating a hazard for their colleagues. Educating employees on the importance of storing office supplies and their belongings properly should be a top priority. Furthermore, all cables and wires running across the office floor should be placed underneath the carpeting or secured by tape.

For thousands of HR departments worldwide, 2020 is a year like no other. From increased social unrest to the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, keeping employees safe at work is proving to be a real challenge. However, if HR is professional enough, they should be able to rise to the challenge through hard work, strict safety procedures, and innovative thinking.

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