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In June, COS asked its readers – OHS professionals – about their COVID-19 experience so far.

From the results we can see that broadly, a majority of readers agree that the impact of COVID-19 has been large (around 54 per cent), with 19 per cent saying that the impact has even been massive. Nevertheless, a sizeable number of respondents said that the impact has been moderate (23 per cent), with almost 4 per cent saying that it had been negligible.

Almost 58 per cent of respondents said that they were somewhat worried about not being able to control the impact of COVID-19 on their organization. Around 15 per cent of people surveyed were very worried, 23 per cent slightly worried and almost 4 per cent were not at all worried.

In addition, most OHS professionals agree that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their team, with two thirds (61.5 per cent) of those surveyed saying that the impact will last over a year.

So, what key points can we take away from this survey?

1. PPE and physical distancing are big concerns

With some respondents being on extreme ends of the spectrum (either very concerned and affected, or not at all), we can nevertheless glean from these results that a majority of those surveyed have seen their organizations impacted by the pandemic, and that it was certainly a cause for concern.

So, what did respondents say were a major cause of concern for their teams in handling the pandemic? The ability to implement social/physical distancing (38 per cent) and the provision of PPE (27 per cent) were the two main concerns. Only 15 per cent of those surveyed said that heightened level of risk involved in work-related travel was an issue, and only 4 per cent responded that safety issues arising from remote working/working from home was a concern.

In fact, on that last point, those surveyed said that is had been very (38 per cent) or somewhat (31 per cent) possible to work from home – and for 11.5 per cent of respondents, extremely possible! Conversely, 11.5 per cent of those asked said that it had not at all been possible to effectively work from home.

2. Mental health remains an important topic

An issue that has been on many employers’ minds during the pandemic, the survey revealed that mental health issues have been a topic of concern for OHS professionals also. A majority of respondents agreed that broadly the pandemic had caused mental health issues in their organization, from just a few (42 per cent), to some (35 per cent) to many (11.5 per cent).

3. New guidelines have by and large been possible to implement

With a slew of guidelines in place to protect workers, how possible has it been for businesses and employers to implement these various new regulations? Increased sanitation has been the easiest to implement, with 81 per cent of respondents saying that it was very easy to implement. Guidelines touching on physical distancing, staggered shifts/breaks and access to PPE have also been relatively possible to respect.

Those surveyed said that physical distancing had been very (35 per cent) or somewhat (42 per cent) to make possible – with around 19 per cent saying that it was only slightly possible, and 4 per cent saying that it was not at all possible.

With regards to staggered shifts/breaks, 46 per cent of respondents said that it had been very possible to implement and 30 per cent said that it had been somewhat (31 per cent) easy to implement. Similarly to physical distancing, 19 per cent said that it was slightly possible, and almost 4 per cent said not at all.

Access to PPE was also broadly possible, a majority of those surveyed said that it was somewhat (46 per cent) feasible, 38 per cent said that it was very feasible and only 15 per cent said that it was slightly feasible.

4. Manpower and budget are not big concerns (yet)

Indeed, surprisingly respondents for the most part stated that manpower and budget reductions as a result of COVID-19 had not largely affected the safety function in their organization.

Though 23 per cent said that manpower reductions had moderately affected the safety function of their organization, 38 per cent said this had only been slightly affected, and 38 said that there had been no impact at all.

With regards to budget reductions, though almost 8 per cent said that these had had a large impact on the safety function in their organization, 19 per cent said that the impact had been moderate whilst 38 per cent said it had been slight and 35 per cent said there had been no impact.

5. OHS professionals have additional concerns

Though access to PPE, cleaning products and the effects of the pandemic on mental health were freely raised by OHS professionals during the survey, there were also additional concerns raised by respondents.

Lack of information and misinformation were brought up, with one respondent citing lack of prevalence data as a concern. Other concerns focused on misinformation or inconsistent information with regards to guidelines. Similarly, respondents mentioned difficulties enforcing compliance and mediating between workers.

A number of respondents voiced concerns about issues surrounding under-reporting of workplace injury and presenteeism.

Lastly, though a number of these new guidelines may slow work down, there has nevertheless been pressure for employees to work quickly said a few of those surveyed, with clients “demanding” to maintain schedules.

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