What is there left to say? You don't need me to tell you about the COVID pandemic and how catastrophic it has been or enumerate the ways the coronavirus has taken over our lives. We're all tired of lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, remote work, masks, "the curve," and so forth —not to mention overused terms like "unprecedented," and "new normal”. 2020 has been the most difficult year in modern history, and the worst year of millions of people's lives. But let's not write it off completely. After all, from the standpoint of occupational health and safety, this year was the year many employers truly prioritized their workers' well-being.
It's no surprise that the most popular subjects to discuss for safety this year were primarily COVID-related. However, we also saw significant interest in articles on other workforce compliance and environment, health, and safety topics. Hopefully, these trends indicate that organizations will only become safer, smarter, and more efficient in 2021 and beyond—even after the COVID pandemic has come to an end.
Until then, let's look back on the last 12 months, reflect on what we've learned this year, and feel grateful for the fact that we made it through.
Working Safely During COVID-19
There have been COVID-19 state regulatory updates related to distancing orders (stay-at-home, etc.) and employment law changes (paid leave, unemployment benefits, etc.) and what employers may consider as they make decisions. Remaining open or getting back to work looks different in every state, and for every employer, but we have several recommendations any organization can use to ensure compliance and maximize their workers' safety.
The Hierarchy of Controls Is the Best Defense We Have Against COVID-19
A hierarchy of controls is an approach to environmental safety (whether that environment is your workplace or home) that structures protective measures into five stages, in order of most to least effective:
- Engineering Controls
- Administrative Controls
- Personal Protective Equipment
These measures, when followed and implemented correctly, can help you manage any kind of workplace risk, including the coronavirus. In fact, the hierarchy of controls may be the best defense we have against COVID.
Perhaps because of the way the virus spreads, spiking in one region while decreasing in another, as well as the differences between state responses to the pandemic, maps have emerged as crucial tools for employers navigating the COVID crisis in the US. Some of the best maps you can use to view state-by-state breakdowns of response measures and workplace safety requirements is from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC COVID Data Tracker.
Online Resources That Make a Difference
The above CDC website is filled with volumes of good resources for employers, and likewise the Texas Department of State Health Services continues to be the best source for Texas specific information: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (state.tx.us).
- Our very own Zywave has proven to be a great resource for updated trainings and documents.
- The second Tuesday of each month our Agency holds a FREE Question & Answer Session: Clear Up the Chaos – Power Hour. This allows you the opportunity to hear about top regulatory issues as well as get your own questions answered. Our next session is taking place Tuesday, January 12th at 10:00 am CST. If you’re interested in attending, please use the link to register. https://www.ncwriskmanagement.com/power-hour
- Follow our Blog for weekly compliance updates. https://www.ncwriskmanagement.com/blog/2020/12/irs-announces-2021-standard-mileage-rates
- Quarterly seminars are made available throughout the year on challenging hot topics.
- Our monthly newsletter is distributed the third Monday of each month. If you’re not yet receiving and are interested please email our Stewardship Director, Elizabeth Carter at elizabeth [dot] carter [at] ncwriskmanagement [dot] com
So Long, 2020
Ready to say goodbye to this year? Me too. Unfortunately, many of the same issues and uncertainties that plagued 2020 will continue through at least the early part of 2021. Keep your safety efforts and your chin up! The good news is that vaccines will soon be available to the public, and you don't have to manage your workforce Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and compliance concerns alone. NCW is here to help!
NCW extends our heartfelt thank you to our clients, resource partners and our team members for your efforts to stay healthy and safe this year. We wish you a joyous holiday season and a wonderful new year. Here's to a happier, easier, and less eventful 2021!