‘Return to Work’ Safety: Taking Precautions Will Go A Long Way
Blog | January 25th, 2023

‘Return to Work’ Safety: Taking Precautions Will Go A Long Way

Returning to work after a break can be challenging. Most likely, workers still feel the lingering taste of the fun activities they indulged in during the holidays. Or, perhaps the warm glow from time spent with their loved ones is still fresh in their memories!

It is not for nothing that we often hear people complaining about Monday-Morning-Blues. And this is just after a short weekend break. Longer vacations like Thanksgiving or Christmas can be worse! This can make employees less alert about their surroundings and make them vulnerable to slips and falls or be less diligent about safety protocols.

In fact, one safety leader we spoke to says the biggest problem is people “forget” to take safety precautions they automatically did before. A simple solution to this problem is to schedule a ‘back to work’ safety training and add some safety signs around the workplace. Just a nudge goes a long way!

Since Covid-19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention introduced a set of guidelines for precautions to be taken when reopening physical workspaces after a lockdown. Of course, that was primarily focused on managing infections and illnesses. But as businesses step up activities after low-key operations due to a long vacation, some of the precautionary measures and safety approaches continue to remain relevant.

Common Hazards and Injuries in the Holiday Season

In the regular flow of workday activities, employees are in the groove and follow safety protocols as part of their day-to-day activities. But in the holiday season, there is a break in that flow and it may take them some time to get back into the routine. There is the additional risk of horseplay as the vacation mood may linger on.

Then, temporary workers may have been deployed to take the place of regular workers who are on vacation, bringing with it its own risks. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that workplace safety processes are diligently followed.

Slips, Trips, and Falls: Housekeeping may be a challenge in the holiday season and walkways may become cluttered and slippery, leading to slips, trips, and falls. As most of the festive occasions in the western world are during peak winter times, the risk of winter boots leaving behind small puddles on the floor adds to the risk. Therefore, ensuring clean and dry walkways is essential.

Musculoskeletal Disorders: Insufficient staff may increase the workload on those who return early or don’t leave for vacation at all. As a result, the stress and strain on them may increase, leading to injuries to the back or straining of muscles.

Hazards Related to the Weather: In addition to the possibility of snow or ice entering the premises (possibly from the boots) and leaving puddles, winters may also cause cold stress, hypothermia, and frostbite. Ensure employees are well protected from the cold with enough warm clothing and thermal wear.

Traffic and Vehicle-related Risks: Deliveries and supplies may continue unhindered, though on a low key. The winter fog, holiday traffic, and slippery roadways add to the risks your delivery truck drivers and staff face. Ensure the vehicles are maintained well, the staff is provided enough reflective clothing (when necessary), and that they drive safely.

Equipment-Related Hazards: Review all electrical gadgets and wirings to ensure there is no risk of a fire. Also, maintain the equipment properly to ensure they work fine and do not pose a potential risk in the form of an electrical shock or any other danger.

Mental Disorders: While some may be having a great time, there may be others who are lonely, under stress, and overworked. Ensure they have access to help in case they want to share their problems and find solutions.

Customer Satisfaction: Customers may also be more touchy during holiday times as they may be crunched for time – professionally and personally. Put in place guidelines for the de-escalation of any flare-up and train front-line employees, supervisors, and managers so that the problem can be resolved smoothly and to the satisfaction of the customer.

Infections and Illnesses: Winters are also times for viral and other infections and diseases. As we are not completely out of the COVID scare, proper measures are a must to minimize the fast spread of flu and colds. Encourage vaccinations, masks, and social distancing where possible.

Ensure Proactive Safety Management with These 10 Steps

Workplaces can be made safe through proactive safety management just before the employees return to work.

  1. Identify Risks: Assess the risks caused by factors such as the weather, lower scale of operations, the deployment of temporary staff to perform tasks, etc. Evaluate and prioritize them so that the necessary controls can be put in place.
  2. Review and Revise Safety Policy: The holiday season is also a good time to make sure the current safety processes are enough to meet any changing requirements based on the scale of operations, regulatory changes, or any similar factors.
  3. Communicate: Communication is key to empowering employees with the information needed to make their workstations safe and prevent injuries.
  4. Training: Identify potential gap areas and deliver personalized training for the current and returning employees to make sure they participate in safety management.
  5. Document: Document the observations for regulatory and review purposes and share them with the people concerned.
  6. Audits and Inspections: Walk through the entire facility to identify any potential safety issues and address them in a timely manner.
  7. Implement Controls: Once the risks have been identified, identify the checks and balances needed to reduce the number of incidents.
  8. Perform Predictive Maintenance: Plan and implement machine maintenance tasks to ensure they are working as expected.
  9. Establish Metrics: Measure the effectiveness of the safety management system and take corrective action in case of any discrepancies.
  10. Root Cause Analysis: For any persistent problems, conduct a root cause analysis to identify the real cause and take corrective and preventive actions.

Time is of the essence, and automation can help accelerate risk identification, assessment, change management, documentation, gap analysis, root cause analysis, etc. ComplianceQuest’s Safety Management solution enables the automation of safety workflows, helping businesses make their workplaces safe and ready for the employees returning from their vacations.

To know more, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/lp/ehs/

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