OSH content developer Ryan Exley on why OSH practitioners should give themselves a pat on the back after a tumultuous year, and the positives 2021 will bring.
As sure as night follows day, winter turns to spring, here we are in another new year. The history books for 2020 will be forever full of COVID-19, lockdowns, track and trace, U-turns and finally, vaccinations. Looking back on the anniversary of the virus being discovered, and many of finding ourselves in lockdown once again, it was and still is a lot of doom and gloom and misery. However, there are reasons to feel optimistic.
Clearly the biggest positive to take from the pandemic is that vaccines are now being rolled out, and sooner rather than later normality should return. From an occupational health and safety aspect, COVID-19 has seen organisations recognise OSH come to the fore. The pandemic placed the lens firmly on OSH to provide pragmatic solutions to reduce the risk of the invisible enemy in the workplace and our profession duly obliged, stepping from the shadows into the spotlight.
While some industries were ordered to shut down, others were required to continue – and business continuity planning was key to this. These plans enabled organisations to adapt quickly and make changes to allow them to continue operating. OSH was essential to this. If it wasn't beforehand, since the pandemic hit OSH has been recognised as a fundamental area within business continuity.
OSH professionals have provided continuous, up to date advice and support for workers throughout the pandemic, allowing workers to be as best informed as possible with regards to physical and mental solutions. While it’s easy for organisations to see the practical solutions implemented in the workplace, what they don’t see is the extent to which health and safety managers go to provide support to workers. And this support has not been strictly restricted to the workplace; OSH practitioners have strived to support workers' mental health and wellbeing, particularly through such a difficult and emotionally distressing period.
So for those in OSH who rarely get the recognition and praise they deserve, 2020 may have seen you grab the attention and trust of the workplace. I challenge you to reflect on your COVID experiences and your own personal development during this period. I also encourage you to take a second, breathe, and give yourself a pat on the back, because you are doing a fantastic job during continuously uncertain times.
Ryan Exley is an OSH content developer at IOSH.