In the rapidly changing environment caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, leadership needs to access the latest reliable information and communicate with employees about steps being taken to stop the spread of the contagion. The pandemic has changed workplace safety, introducing significant stress and uncertainty. This can result in leaders doing fewer high-quality safety activities, because they are concerned they can’t answer the most pressing questions. Employee stress increases the probability of distraction when situational awareness is most needed.
On June 3, 1991, the Colorado Department of Health (CDH) was notified of a work-related burn sustained by a 20-year-old employee of a fast-food restaurant. The employee had been following the restaurant's standard procedure for cleaning exhaust filters located approximately five feet above a deep fryer. She had placed a wooden cover over three of the fryer's four bins, all four of which contained hot grease; no cover was available for the fourth bin. While standing on a chair she had placed on the wooden cover to reach and remove the filters, she fell, sustaining second- and third-degree burns over 10% of her body when she immersed her arm and shoulder in the hot grease contained in the uncovered fourth bin. She was hospitalized for 4 days and later required plastic surgery for scarring.(1)
Imagine that you’re a supervisor at a construction site, in a state where marijuana is legal. As you begin the day, you notice that one of your employees, Mike, doesn’t look like himself. His eyes are red, and he’s moving more slowly than usual. You think he might be under the influence of marijuana. Mike operates heavy machinery, and you’re worried about his and others’ safety. To play it safe, you follow company policy, have Mike get a urine test, and send him home until the test comes back three days later.