Addressing Systemic Risks When Implementing Return-To-Work Programs

The COVID 19 pandemic has severely impacted workers across the world both financially and physically. Even as governments around the world ease lockdown and people return to work, there is a growing concern about the mental health and wellbeing fallout of the crises - the lockdown response, the economic shutdown and the direct effects of the infection itself whether on oneself or on family and friends. Bearing this in mind, there is a wealth of evidence that correlates poor mental health with poor risk recognition in the workplace. The Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine has even shown a correlation between unsafe practices and increasing stress. And, the HSE has estimated that as much as 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety from 2018 to 2019.

In addition to stress, anxiety and depression, protracted time away from routine work from being furloughed, self-isolating or simply taking on work-from-home duties will increase the risk of workplace incidents upon return. These factors are known as ‘systemic risks’ and are risks that contribute to a hazard, an injury or a fatality but are not in themselves direct causes (see Verdantix New Approaches to Reducing Serious Injuries, Fatalities and High Potential Events). Firms can mitigate systemic risks by not only ensuring returning employees meet training requirements for previous routine work but also meet any new compliance standards (see Verdantix Eleven Critical Actions To Take For Returning To Work Post COVID-19). Specifically, vendors like Enablon, EtQ, Gensuite, Intelex and OneLook Systems provide training solutions to aid in mitigating these training-related risks.

Firms should also leverage mobile technology for worker mental health assessments and communication in addition to bolstering their training programs to adapt to the new normal. Vendors like Cority have gamified fit-for-duty questionnaires to be more engaging to employees and provide worker wellbeing solutions through its ‘myCority’ application. For more interventionist solutions, the creatively misspelt Happinss is a vendor that leverages wearables data to inform stress management. The system also combines positive stimulus from nature, music therapy and mindfulness and allows the user to visualise and track progress. Similarly, Happify Health helps employers support workers’ mental health using over 3,000 science-based games and activities to engage workers in a friendly and convenient enterprise platform (see Verdantix Strategic Focus: Supporting Worker Mental Health And Wellbeing In The Digital Age). Solutions like these ensure that workers are in the right frame of mind and retain the optimum skills level to carry out tasks, in turn reducing error rates linked to lack of focus and lapsed training.

EHS Addressing Systemic Risks When Implementing Return To Work Programs Verdantix Blog