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The world is in constant change, in permanent evolution. However, we rarely have the opportunity to experience a phenomenon that so suddenly has the capacity to change the world as we know it today. We have all witnessed historical moments, great achievements of humanity, natural disasters or serious attacks, but none so profound or so global.
Let’s admit it, the world we will meet when this is over will be different.
There is no doubt that being in a different world will bring about changes in almost all aspects of life and it is good to reflect on these changes in order to be prepared, to face them successfully.
I would like to reflect on how this change will affect Health and Safety at work. To do this, I have decided to analyse it from three aspects in particular: the use of personal protection equipment, the importance of safety in teleworking and safe behaviour.
OHS professionals have been struggling all their lives to convince workers, managers and even executives of the importance of using personal protection equipment when necessary. It is a fight in which, on one hand, with a lot of effort in training, awareness and, on the other hand, improvement of PPE itself, we have made great progress in recent years. And now, we have witnessed with amazement how most of the population has massively used, to the limit of the world’s production capacity, PPE to face a threat. This is a fascinating change of behaviour, which we should not miss the opportunity to learn from, of course. But what will happen when this is over? Will this change the way workers think about Personal Protection Equipment? Will there be fewer failures to use PPE in the workplace? I like to think so, although I have the feeling that this change has to be helped by everyone in order to be lasting. We must be able to take advantage of this massive awareness that has been provoked to explain how any PPE can save a life, and we will find a public more inclined to listen to us talk about it and be convinced that it is true. We have a great opportunity here, and it is in our hands to seize it.
Another aspect that has characterized our lives these past few weeks has been teleworking. For years we have been talking about it, we have evaluated it as a conciliation measure, and some courageous companies have even launched into using it, with little guidance from the authorities, generally. Now we have learned it all at once, and we have seen that it is a powerful and usable tool, which will solve many future situations for us. What happened today may happen again, maybe even soon, and telework could be a frequently used resource for companies. But I want us to think about Safety during teleworking. How can we guarantee the safety of a worker who is at home? Who is responsible for the working conditions of a teleworker? What happens if a worker has an accident at home? The answer to most of these questions is a magic word: awareness. I am sure that the way to improve safety is to convince ourselves that safety is our way of life, and that a job is not well done unless it is done safely, with quality, on time and in good shape. It will be interesting to see how safety evolves in teleworking.
Finally, let’s talk about the safety atom, the smallest constituent unit of this subject: safe (or unsafe) behaviour. How will we behave at work when this is over? Will we be safer? Or, on the contrary, will we be so focused on adopting safe behaviours so as not to catch a disease that we will not be able to remember other good practices we have already learned? Frankly, I do not think that the change in general behaviour will happen in such a magical way, so allow me some pessimism here. On the other hand, I think we have an ideal breeding ground to convince, to saw agreements that will result in exponential growth of safe behaviour. It is up to us to take advantage of this.