Empowering Workers in an Uncertain World — Occupational Health & Safety

Empowering Workers in an Uncertain World

Empowering Workers in an Uncertain World

Should we not create a future where equipment enhances a worker’s ability to perform in demanding environments?

As everyone adjusts to the ‘new normal’ of social distancing and frequent handwashing, it can be tough to look beyond the immediate crisis. But as we cautiously exit lockdown and restart businesses, people are facing a very different world. It may seem a little premature to find lessons learned from the pandemic, but one truth the crisis has exposed is the essential nature of certain professions and the importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their work.

We have relied heavily on our frontline workers, who have stepped up during this time of need—not just our healthcare professionals, but also the people who police our streets, build our homes, supply the food we eat, manufacture essential goods and deliver our mail (to name a few). These are the essential workers who ensured the rest of us could remain safe, healthy and productive during the lockdown.

Essential PPE

One recurring story during the crisis has been centered around PPE for these essential workers. Unfortunately, the narrative has been centered on the inadequacy of the supply chain, the resultant global panic-purchasing and, ironically, images of injuries sustained by the prolonged wearing of safety gear.

In response to this, we have seen a truly incredible collective effort—many available 3D printers began producing protective face shields, and many dormant sewing machines were dusted off and put to work assembling facemasks. While this positive social engagement has been heart-warming to witness, for frontline workers, PPE is a very serious topic.

Having the appropriate PPE to do their jobs in safety and comfort is a necessity for all workers. Do we not owe these people more than the basic standard? Should our collective PPE goals not be more ambitious? Better and smarter PPE could be created that goes beyond keeping our essential workers safe but also that enhances their abilities.

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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