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Rising to the Challenge

Deborah R. Roy, M.P.H., R.N., CSP, COHN-S, CIT, FASSP, FAAOHN, 2020-2021 ASSP President
Feb 01, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, I have been truly impressed by the resilience of OSH professionals. American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.”

Just think back over the past year. We all assumed a greater workload that required us to interpret evolving data on COVID-19, identify the associated risks and implement protective measures to help manage our organizations’ pandemic response. In addition, we found new ways to accomplish our usual safety tasks such as worker training, risk assessments and more, often while working remotely or supporting employees who are doing so.

Throughout this public health crisis, we have worked with employees, customers and management to alleviate fear, frustration and even anger regarding pandemic-related rules and restrictions. None of it has been easy, yet we have individually and collectively risen to the challenge.

As you encounter obstacles in the year ahead, I encourage you to keep in mind four core components that APA says can empower us to weather and learn from difficult experiences, become more resilient and improve our overall well-being: 1) connection; 2) wellness; 3) healthy thinking; and 4) meaning.

Let’s start with connection. It is vital to acknowledge the importance of relationships and recognize that we are not alone in this situation. One way to do this is to participate in the online ASSP Community and similar virtual groups that keep us connected, expand our network and encourage new thinking.

We also must safeguard our personal wellness through good nutrition, healthy sleep, proper hydration and regular exercise. Practicing mindfulness and engaging in activities such as journaling, yoga or meditation can help us more effectively manage stress.

In addition, we need to embrace healthy thinking that helps us keep perspective. We cannot always prevent negative events and outcomes, but we can control how we respond to them. We can learn to accept change and adapt to its effect on our intended path. Adopting a hopeful attitude and visualizing success can bolster our outlook, as can applying lessons learned.

Finally, reflecting on our personal “why” can remind us that helping people is our passion. Look for ways to renew your commitment to that meaningful purpose by seeking a volunteer opportunity in your local community, online or with ASSP. Be proactive and accomplish one or two small steps toward a major personal goal. And look for opportunities for self-discovery.

As we strive to fortify our own resilience, we must help our workers do the same. Find opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in human resources, occupational health/wellness and employee assistance programs to share resources that will help workers implement resilience strategies. By giving employees tools and helping them adapt to uncertainty and change, we will keep them engaged, productive, healthy and safe.

If you have not yet incorporated Total Worker Health elements into your safety management system, please take this opportunity to do so. CDC has great resources to help you get started. NIOSH also has a free on-demand webinar series that provides good insight. In particular, be sure to view “Management During Difficult Times: Supporting Workers and Families to Prevent Burnout and Promote Well-Being.”

The pandemic has drained us all physically, emotionally and mentally. But we should be heartened by what we have accomplished during these trying times. We should be bolstered by the increased recognition of our efforts to protect people and support business continuity. And we should be encouraged that our diligent efforts to advocate for evidence-based measures have kept countless workers safe and healthy.

I know many of your employers have acknowledged your contributions over the past 12 months. Let me add to that recognition: Thank you for all the employees you have supported and for all your continued efforts!

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