The future of safety

How will the COVID-19 pandemic change the field of occupational safety and health?

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Chris Cain

Executive director
CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training

The pandemic is causing every OSH practitioner in the construction industry to focus on protecting worker health. While our industry tends to focus on PPE first, the Hierarchy of Controls is gaining traction, and engineering and administrative controls not seen on worksites previously are becoming the norm. Because we expect this hazard to be around for a long time, I believe an emphasis on health will continue. This increased attention also gives OSH practitioners more visibility within their companies, elevating the importance of the field.

OSH practitioners should take the opportunity to ensure that not only controls for COVID-19 are in place, but also persistent hazards like falls and silica are controlled. In addition, because industry and workplace hazards and stressors impact workers’ overall health and well-being, practitioners need to consider psychosocial and mental health risks and learn how to address them by identifying and helping management control these risks.

The pandemic is already creating permanent shifts in OSH training. Innovative methods of online learning, which were evolving pre-pandemic, are now rapidly being adopted. They will continue to grow with new technologies, likely becoming standard practice if shown to be effective.


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