Proper Lifting Techniques

Return to Work: How COVID-19 is Changing the Safety Landscape

By: Mary Peters, PT, MPH, CEA, Director of Onsite Services

Businesses across the Midwest are starting to “re-open” and we are having conversations with employers and employees alike on what it means to return or to continue working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mary PetersToday I want to share a few of the ways I’ve seen the pandemic impact the workplace and what precautions employers and employees can take to prevent injuries.

Many people were away from work and are now de-conditioned.

  • For employees who were furloughed, or otherwise away from work for an extended period of time, their bodies have adjusted to less movement and fewer physical demands. Returning to a full shift without proper precautions means a higher risk of injuries.

Older employees are at a higher risk for injury and Coronavirus.

  • Many of the people called back first are those with seniority and they’re placed at a job that they haven’t done for a long time, typically one that is harder on their body. They are also more likely to be impacted by the virus.

Employees who have been working overtime are at a higher risk of injury.

  • If your company has not had to close, but instead has had employees working overtime to meet high demand, that physical toll increases the risk of injuries.

Social distancing poses new challenges, physically and mentally.

  • As employers reconfigure break areas and workstations, and rethink how shift changes work, it can mean more challenges for employees in terms of longer shifts and less social time with co-workers.

Face masks makes employees hotter and some jobs harder to do.

  • Adding PPE like a face mask can make it harder to cool down, as cool air is replaced with hot breath. It can also make safety glasses fog up and limit visibility.

So, what can we do about these new challenges? Here are a few of the things we’ve been working with our employers on:

Tips for Employers to Prevent Workplace Injury

  • Help employees recondition to working full shifts
    • One way to do this is treat them as you would a new hire getting trained
    • For the first week or two, give them a gradual increase in production numbers
  • Encourage warm up exercises at the beginning of each day
  • Promote stretching throughout the day
  • Ensure job rotation
  • Consider giving employees extra breaks or more frequent, shorter breaks
  • Be aware of extra stressors on yourself and your employees
  • Bring in Onsite Services to evaluate processes and intervene before issues become a problem
  • If there’s a concern about COVID-19, follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC, OSHA and local officials

Tips for Employees to Avoid Injury and Stay Healthy

  • Do warm up exercises at the start of every shift.
    • It’s very important to get your body ready before starting work, especially if you are doing a more physical job or have been away from work for an extended period.
  • Wear your mask properly so your glasses don’t fog over.
    • Ensure your mask is tight enough around your nose so it won’t fog up your safety glasses.
  • Make adjustments to ensure your field of vision isn’t limited.
    • The mask may limit your ability to look directly down.
    • You may need to keep your work slightly out in front of your body or look ahead to see what objects are on the floor to avoid trip hazards.
  • Stretch throughout the day.
    • Do stretches on the line to counteract the posture and movement you are doing while working.
    • For example, if spend the day hunched over, take breaks to stand up tall and stretch your arms wide open and back.
  • Use break times wisely.
    • Make good use of each break to revive yourself. Take off your mask. Stay hydrated. Get some fresh air.
  • Check in with co-workers.
    • You may not be able to connect with people like you’re used to. Take extra steps and use technology to ensure your friends are doing OK.
  • Be aware of extra stressors on yourself and others.
    • Especially your older coworkers who are a higher risk of being impacted by Coronavirus. This could be physical stressors or mental and emotional ones.
  • Take care of yourself.
    • Take your medicine as directed. Stay hydrated. Get rest. Take all breaks as allowed.
  • Utilize your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for mental and emotional support.

Ready to learn more about our Onsite Services offerings and how it can help you avoid injuries? Contact us at 844-755-4272.

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