Perspective: Safety Leadership
The business community has a long history of stepping up to lead in moments when our country needs it most. As I write to you, we are facing one of these defining moments, impacting each one of us in both our place of business as well as at home. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your constant dedication to safety and your collective recognition that now more than ever, safety cannot stop. Safety professionals are hard at work protecting their colleagues, customers and one another from harm while advancing companies’ efforts to create impact during this unprecedented global crisis. We at NSC applaud those efforts. Business leaders must support safety now more than ever, and I hope you will work with me to ensure companies double down even more.
The coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented global crisis and impacted workplaces in significant ways. Even the most mature operations may find themselves in situations that impede their abilities to deliver life-saving products and services.
According to an NSC member benchmarking survey conducted last week, we identified 72% of our member companies still have workers on the job today. Many of these jobs are unsung positions in grocery stores, construction, manufacturing, trucking, delivery, postal, airlines, public transportation, defense, janitorial, refuse collection, warehousing and many more. That translates to millions of other on-site workers that are potentially not getting the care and protection they need to safely do their jobs.
These dedicated professionals may be working more hours – often with skeleton crews – covering new job responsibilities in new environments. Employees will need proper training on new equipment and operating procedures, and we must stay vigilant on issues like distraction, fatigue and complacency. NSC is collecting resources and information to help employers navigate these issues. Please visit our info hub at nsc.org/coronavirus, which we are updating daily.
It’s more important now than ever to focus on the fundamentals of safety – to assess and mitigate risk in our changing operating environments. Tasks with safeguards in place may have been changed, workers may be new to the job or brought over from other tasks, and communication can often be fragmented in times of crisis. We need to double down on these essential components of keeping people safe.
We not only need to protect workers today, but prevent illness so we have a healthy workforce when it comes time to return to usual work environments and routines. Preventative measures today are critical.
Ensure your workers reporting to job sites practice the federal government’s directives for hygiene. Provide disinfectant so workers can clean high-touch surfaces every two hours. Make sure they can practice physical distancing recommendations and follow CDC workplace guidelines. And if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, be sure to follow CDC guidance for disinfecting and cleaning buildings and facilities. The guidance includes closing off areas used by the sick person, opening windows and doors, and waiting 24 hours after the sick employee leaves the facility to start cleaning and disinfecting, if feasible.
Finally, as has been well-documented, our healthcare professionals – the men and women on the front lines of the crisis – are in dire need of personal protective equipment (PPE).
For more information, please visit DonatePPE.org, which allows companies to identify donation drives and donate based on the needs of healthcare facilities in local communities and across the globe. We all must do our part to address the health and safety of these heroes.
Since our founding in 1913, NSC has watched employers step in to meet safety challenges that emerge in times of great uncertainty. Employers are on the front lines protecting what matters most – their employees. I’m calling on all of you today to meet the moment again. Please do everything in your business power to make PPE both widely available and useable to all front line workers, and please stay focused on the day-to-day safety measures we have all worked so hard to put in place. We all must do our part. Thank you for your leadership in these challenging times.
Lorraine M. Martin
President & CEO
National Safety Council