What will occupational safety focus on in 2021?

This time last year, we had just embarked on our first lockdown.  There was some alarm about it, but everyone rallied to the cry. However, we had no idea how serious things would really get, and how long it would all last.

As we look ahead to the tentative re-opening of the country in 2021, and getting back to normality, I do wonder about attitudes to work-related safety now.  I am a safety solutions provider, albeit for a specific area of occupational risk. However, I am still a working professional, with an office and colleagues, so just how will we need to adapt?

During the pandemic, SiteZone Safety still had to provide proximity warning systems to construction and waste sector workers to protect them against personnel/vehicle collision. Certain industries couldn’t just stop during the quarantine and restrictions, and had to continue serving the public.  COVID-19 was just another high-risk element to their already challenging jobs.

From my point of view, considering our specific expertise at SiteZone Safety, I hope that we don’t ‘forget’ that occupational safety isn’t all about COVID-19.  The work-related dangers that existed before the pandemic remain and continue putting workers at risk. There are thousands of fatalities a year in the UK, caused by various safety breaches and shortfalls across several sectors. When we all get back to work properly, they will still need careful attention and investment towards reducing or eradicating them.

Which brings me to training, as I think that this will be a much bigger feature in the safety sphere. As we adapt and learn newer ways of doing things, it’s vital that all relevant people know what their role is and how they should be delivering. Whether this is about safety policy, procedure, or new technology, training your teams will ensure that you get the best out of your investment, and that optimum results are achieved.

And then there’s accountability. If your team is not invested in doing a good job with each person taking responsibility for their part, then it impacts success potential. Having been separated from our colleagues and the anchor of the office or site, the importance of collaboration and teamwork was really highlighted during the pandemic. Safety is everyone’s business – you watch my back and I’ll watch yours. If that spirit of collaboration on a common goal isn’t present, risk overtakes and accidents happen. And as we know, as safety professionals, that many accidents are completely avoidable.

I suppose the final major safety issue of 2021 for me is really a health-related issue – mental wellbeing. In our field of proximity warning, we’ve realised that the two are inextricably linked. If plant operators are worried about accidentally hitting someone because of blind spots, they spend their working day in a heightened state of stress. That is not healthy, which is why we try to alleviate that unease with our proximity warning systems. And we know it works, because plant operators have told us so.

Therefore, my last 2021 safety observation is to make sure we look out for one another. Be kind. As a country, we’ve been through a very trying and unnatural experience, and for some it has been extremely hard. There have been losses of all kinds. So in the safety sector, along with all the other industries, let’s not forget to look to our own and our colleagues’ wellbeing. We rarely ever see ‘safety’ mentioned, without the word ‘health’ close behind and there’s a good reason for that.

About the author

Gary Escott is the co-founder of SiteZone Safety, he has worked in the field of mobile plant safety for 15 years and has worked on the introduction of technology based safety products across other sectors. His goal is reducing the risk of collisions between vehicles and vulnerable persons using innovative products and technology.

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