The future of safety

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

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Don Martin

Senior vice president

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the safety and health profession in the spotlight in a way that I have not seen in several generations. It’s important for us as safety professionals to recognize that we now have a role that transcends routine industrial workplace safety. I can think of several times when there was the threat of a pandemic on the horizon, but those never really entered the workplace to the degree that COVID-19 has. This redefines the scope of what we do.

I see three ways our role will change in coming years. First, we will be asked to pay more attention to critical data and think through implications on safety and health. How we assess data will determine the scope and timing of interventions. Secondly, personal hygiene and area disinfection practices will become a greater part of our role; we will be called on to provide guidance and procedures to verify these practices are performed properly. Finally, we will be compelled to ensure our companies are prepared for health emergencies through plans that are cohesive, thorough and current. We’ll need to serve as guardians of these plans and always keep them on the radar of the executives we serve.


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