Since February 2020, the thinking around risk and safety has undergone a complete shift:
- The primary focus for safety has shifted from injury prevention to illness prevention.
- COVID-related data and reporting have become front and center as drivers of performance and decision-making.
- There is a heightened need for reliability and risk controls in processes related to illness and injury prevention.
- Staffing agencies and their clients must find ways to collaborate to ensure safe work for all employees.
Our former thinking often steered our efforts to primarily focus on preventing physical injuries that could lead to OSHA-recordable events, with very little practice or awareness of risks that could lead to illness.
Find a balanced approach to manage risk
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened our need to develop risk controls and safety practices—between both employers—that effectively combat unseen germs. While the current focus is on illness prevention, what is needed is a balanced approach to prevent both illness and injury. So where do we start?
For many companies today, the traditional approach to safety and risk is likely focused on post-incident metrics. That's OK—at least for now. But backward-looking reporting doesn’t set the bar high enough when it comes to organizational safety and risk today. Celebrating a certain number of days without a safety incident means very little if your organization can't point to specific behaviors and actions that drive desired safety outcomes. That’s true for both injury and illness prevention.
Redefine safety for today’s workplace
To ensure the best safety performance, both staffing agency and client must operate from the same definition. Safety is an outcome. It’s the result of the things we actively "do" to create the outcomes we want. In a very real sense, it is the things we actively do together that create a safer working environment, and that doesn’t happen by accident. In joint-employer work environments where continually improving performance in safety is expected, everyone has a role, and there is clarity about the things we do to achieve the performance we want. As we learn to work through the COVID pandemic, it is a great time to reset expectations for roles, goals, and performance to manage risks to acceptable levels in a joint-employer environment.
Start with a shift in mindset
What's required is a shift in mindset: Rather than looking in the rearview mirror, a disciplined team of leaders and workers from each employer must do four things:
- Learn how to identify risks.
- Provide feedback on desired behaviors.
- Connect performance goals to safety.
- Communicate upward to leaders of both employers.