When I originally wrote my message for this issue, the topic was fleet safety, a risk many of our organizations face but often overlook. That was late February, and few of us were thinking about coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, we are all talking about COVID-19 and adding new terms such as flattening the curve and social distancing to our vocabulary.
As the senior elected leader of ASSP, an organization that has stood for safety for more than 100 years, I would be remiss if I did not address the changed realities this pandemic is creating for our workplaces, our families and our lives.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold as this issue of PSJ went to press, the public conversation about the disease and its spread has been fueled at times by contradictory and misleading information that has caused unnecessary panic and fear. But those reactions are a common human response. In the absence of clear information, we tend to take actions that provide us with some sense of control. That is why it is critical to base our decisions and responses on information and guidance from credible sources such as CDC and World Health Organization, as well as information from our local health and government authorities.
This situation has revealed another challenge that we can help address: Inadequate disaster recovery and business continuity plans. By getting involved in your organization’s disaster recovery planning, you can provide specific insight to help your company plan for the worst-case scenario and be better prepared to respond, even during unprecedented times like these.
To help your company assess its plans, first consider the range of external factors that can impact your organization based on its location and operations. Then identify what controls you can implement to mitigate those factors. It is also important to identify alternative sources of products, materials and services in case the company’s primary providers are unable to deliver. This can include products ranging from basic items such as office supplies to more critical items such as potable water and food services. Once you have identified these alternatives, work to have agreements in place before you need them.
And, be sure to consider the needs of your workforce and how high-stress events will likely affect them. As noted in my March 2020 message, that includes understanding the need to protect employees’ mental health as well as their physical safety. The constant news coverage of the pandemic is affecting your workers’ emotional health. The widespread movement to have people work remotely is also introducing different risks and stressors that we need to understand and manage.
You are likely experiencing some of these impacts as well. In times like these, it is best to listen to credible sources; practice healthy hygiene, eating and exercise habits; focus on what you can control; and take care of yourself. Staying healthy will ensure that you are available to help and support your employees, your families and your communities.
ASSP’s Board of Directors recognizes our responsibility to evaluate risks, keep perspective and make decisions based on the latest information available. We are working closely with ASSP’s amazing staff to help keep our members safe. We are supporting efforts to flatten the curve by postponing in-person education courses and providing virtual meeting options, and we are supporting a work-from-home approach that helps our staff stay safe and healthy while continuing to effectively serve you and your organizations. As of this writing, we expect to present Safety 2020 June 23-25 in Orlando, FL. We will continue to assess the latest information and will promptly communicate our decisions about the conference to you.
As we all adapt to the changing realities created by this pandemic, I have adopted a new mantra: “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.” My hope is that through the measures we are all taking, as well as those measures being enacted at the local, state and federal levels, we will slow the spread of this disease and help protect people everywhere. Please take good care!