It’s a huge understatement, but 2020 was a year we won’t soon forget (and will likely feel its effects for years to come). The end of the COVID-19 pandemic may be on the horizon with the initiated roll-out of vaccinations but it’s not “back to normal” quite yet. Many of the health, safety, and operational changes that organizations implemented in 2020 won’t be going away anytime soon and we’ll all need to stay vigilant over the coming years
Since then, EHS professionals have been doing amazing work by finding ways to help the general public while keeping your co-workers and loved ones safe. We know it’s tough to balance the daily (and sometimes even hourly) changing needs of your workforce while also striving to meet longer-term challenges and goals.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together a list of emerging EHS technology trends and solutions that might help put some time back in your pocket this year so you can focus on what matters most.
We've also created a checklist based on OSHA's 16-point guidance for employers on how to mitigate and limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace that was recently published on January 29, 2021. Hope it helps.
1. Digital Health Assessments
In 2020, many employers devoted considerable resources to rolling out comprehensive employee, visitor, and/or customer symptom screenings and self-attestations. Organizations will need to continue monitoring the health of their workers with daily self-assessment questionnaires.
If you haven’t already implemented a system to collect health surveys, there are software solutions that provide paperless, quick, easy, and safe ways for employees to report their health status to employers from their phones via mobile apps.
2. Improved Communication Systems
It’s no surprise that communication will remain a fundamental method to protect workers in 2021. OSHA recently underscored the importance of establishing a system for communicating effectively with workers in its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace that we mentioned above.
If you haven’t already done so, we recommend that you take a look at the 16 elements that they recommend employers implement with their COVID-19 prevention programs. There’s a lot of good information for both workers and employers there and OSHA plans to continue to make updates to the page over time, so it’s worth bookmarking.
Whether it’s providing details on the COVID-19 vaccine, sharing specific rules around entering and exiting the building, reinforcing protocols like social distancing and mask use, or updates on COVID-19 guidelines, you’ve no doubt been in frequent communication with teams via email and/or text threads.
Risk intelligence communication platforms can help you inform your workforce more efficiently. Easily send out broadcast push notifications, SMS, and emails that are pre-set or ad-hoc to the entire community, predefined groups or subgroups, or to individuals located within a specific geofenced area on the map. These geofences can be established in advance or in real-time as events unfold. They can also be left in place for a specific amount of time, acting as an alert tripwire for any community member entering the geofenced area.
Of course, communication is a two-way street. Risk management communication software provides your employees and community members with the tools necessary to share their observations and concerns (discreetly or anonymously) with your designated COVID-19 response team.
The right solution will also enable organizations to ensure that their workforce has immediate access to COVID-19 and emergency policies and procedures. Ideally, these resources should also be stored on an offline mobile app for access so connectivity is never a problem.
3. Real-Time Location and Remote Worker Technology
COVID-19 has led many organizations with lone field workers to fast-track their adoption of remote work safety technology. Security officers, social workers, delivery agents, and in-home healthcare providers, just to name a few, often spend most of the day out in the field. Working alone and visiting unfamiliar and potentially volatile situations is a challenge that these lone workers face nearly every day, even before the outset of COVID-19.
Many remote work safety technology solutions allow employees to send their real-time location tracking info to their contacts, engage in online chats with them, and quickly call 911 and safety officials in case of emergency. Platforms should allow for resources and map data to seamlessly update based on the lone worker’s location.
By investing in tools to protect the health and safety of your employees, you’re giving your workers the peace of mind that they are not alone.
4. Continued Use of Online (Instead of Classroom) Training
COVID-19 required organizations to rethink their employee training delivery methods, pivoting from face-to-face instructor-led training to online learning.
In LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report, 57% of talent developers surveyed plan to spend more on their online learning programs in the next 3-5 years; and understandably 38% expect to spend less on instructor-led training. In 2021, training managers will continue to adopt, refine, and improve their online learning programs.
Our friends at Convergence Training have written some great articles on how to get started with online employee training and web-based learning tools, as well as the impact that COVID-19 has had on learning and development. All are well worth a read!
- OSHA, Safety Training, and COVID-19
- What is “Online Learning” And How to Do It Quickly and Easily During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Best Practices for Creating eLearning Courses Quickly During the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- 3 Online Learning Tools (And Skills) Made More Essential by COVID-19
- COVID-19 Presents a Need and Opportunity for L&D to “Step Up Their Game” — Talking with Dr. Stella Lee
5. Mobile Growth
The use of mobile apps has soared in recent years, with nearly 75% of EHS professionals surveyed in 2020 planning to use EHS mobile apps widely across their operations. Organizations are maintaining bring-your-own-device policies and managing robust backend platforms that support data-driven, on-the-go workflows.
Expect workplace safety tools such as mobile inspection and incident applications to continue to become more vital to EHS programs; and an increase in technological controls that turn off mobile devices when workers are completing key tasks.
EHS managers will have to provide and enforce appropriate procedures for the use of mobile technology that keep workers safe AND allow for greater efficiency from mobile apps in operations.