This year’s National Safe Work Month was important for several reasons. The health and safety of workers should always be a priority for businesses, but in 2020, it became even more crucial for employers to prioritise their duty of care.
Spearheaded by Safe Work Australia, the theme this year was COVID-19 work health and safety.
As well as impacting HR systems and processes, the pandemic also created huge shifts in labour and human resource requirements. There were new safety responsibilities and obligations to be considered, as well as the challenges of transitioning employees to work from home arrangements. Businesses had to respond quickly to deliver updated training, disseminate information and implement robust plans to manage the ongoing physical safety and psychological wellbeing of their workers.
During the month, we asked WorkPro customers and partners to share how they put work health and safety first and supported their communities during the pandemic this year.
Putting health and wellbeing first
Expr3ss!, a predictive hiring technology solution that helps employers find candidates with the right culture fit, places a natural emphasis on their own workplace culture and employee engagement. But just like any other business, COVID-19 still proved to be a test.
“With COVID-19 came the need for an even stronger focus on employees first, customers second, and business third,” says Carolyne Burns, Managing Director at Expr3ss!.
“For us, this included initiatives like allowing flexibility around working hours and staff needs, like changing to a 4-day work week to encourage more time with family and friends and so they have more time to mentally and physically refresh, and creating ‘fast feedback’ loops and daily virtual company meetings to provide leaders with the opportunity to check-in, listen and show empathy.”
Expr3ss! identified 3 themes that were central to looking after their people during the period: improving knowledge sharing across teams, encouraging staff suggestions for innovation, and paying close attention to employee motivation.
They’ve seen plenty of success with their approach, so much so that what they first believed was a temporary solution is now becoming a permanent shift. “We were able to balance the short-term COVID-19 performance needs, and we’re headed in the direction of long-term health for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.”
Planning for WHS success, overnight
The pandemic placed unique challenges on a range of services, particularly those who needed to support and manage resulting shifts in the labour market. Drake International, a global recruiter with extensive operations in Australia, knew when COVID-19 first took shape that they needed to respond quickly and effectively to answer the call.
“The main objective was to ensure our employees and labour-hire workers were as safe as possible and fully informed during these uncertain times,” says Steve Fletcher, National WHSQ Manager at Drake International.
To do this, he says, the recruiting company had to plan swiftly and implement various actions to achieve short-term COVID-19 objectives. Part of this response was using WorkPro’s online inductions to ensure workers had COVID-19 updated health and safety training.
Their response also included:
- Developing a COVID-safe plan, which included arrangements for employees to work from home safely
- Creating a plan to keep staff informed about new developments and how the company was reducing risk of transmission with safety measures
- Identified and provided special assistance to workers with constraints like public transport, health conditions and caring responsibilities
- Arranging face masks and hand sanitiser to be available at each Drake office location.
Once the immediate reaction to the virus was completed, Drake International developed a COVID-19 Committee including representatives from Work Health and Safety, Executive and senior management, and other relevant stakeholders to monitor the situation and continue implementing strategies to protect workers.
Supporting employees and their families was their next focus, and one which continues to be a priority with the company recently undertaking a review into their processes and procedures around mental health. “The objective of the internal review,” Mr Fletcher says, “is to explore potential opportunities for implementing more flexibility and/or modified working arrangements for employees, as this model has been proven possible and successful over the past few months.”
The strategies implemented by Drake contributed to zero COVID-19 cases throughout the year and across the country, an effort that was recognised officially by the Department of Health and Human Services and SafeWork Australia.
A helping hand for the community
The Adecco Group, known as one of Australia’s leading recruiters and publicly acknowledged in the recruitment sector for their commitment to health and safety, this year, went one step further to put this focus into action in the community.
During the year, some of their clients’ temporary and contract workers were displaced as a result of the pandemic. Drawing on the breadth and depth of their clients and partners nationally, Adecco responded quickly by categorising their skills, experience and safety knowledge, which they used to place these workers with other clients operating in sectors that were in-demand.
“We identified workers who were highly skilled in customer service in one sector as an example, and quickly transitioned them to fulfil urgent roles in fast moving consumer goods to support the pandemic crisis. This was supported by WorkPro, who were able to deliver key safety inductions for these individuals before commencing work and assist us to background check candidates where required,” says Tariq Nasi, Group Manager of ER/IR.
Through this work, Adecco were able to help Australians in need to find a new role where they could continue to earn income during what has been one of the hardest times the economy has seen.
“WorkPro is incredibly proud of all of our customers and partners who have worked hard this year to prioritise their work health and safety, and meet their obligations as an employer,” says Tania Evans, WorkPro CEO and Founder. “This year we’ve seen an even greater demand for our services, and it’s been very rewarding to help employers meet their duty of care with their people, and ensure they uphold the compliance obligations to their respective industries.”
WorkPro offers a range of COVID-updated online inductions modules, as well as free resources including the Getting Back to Business e-Book to help employers ease the burden during the pandemic.