COVID-19: Supporting Safety for the Front-line workers

The world would have been much worse off had it not been for the front line workers. They’ve helped the world keep a sense of normalcy in the pandemic, helped us with our health, groceries, education, and much more. They have been celebrated & appreciated around the world. Around 2.7 billion people across the world work as front line workers. Working during the pandemic under unprecedented stress and demands puts the workers’ physical and mental health at risk. Working & interacting with other people during the pandemic also means increased exposure to the virus, higher chances of falling sick, which in turn will put pressure on the health care system. According to report by Lancet, 1.1% of health care workers tested positive for COVID-19 compared to .2% of the general community population.

So, the natural question is, how do we keep them safe? While front line workers can protect themselves at an individual level, keeping them safe is the responsibility of the state and also the organizations they work for.
Here are some ways organizations can protect their front line workers.

  • Job Preparedness
    Giving your staff clear instructions about their responsibilities helps save time and avoid confusion. The staff must also given training about safety and security. They must be constantly updated about latest health guidelines released by the government so they can keep themselves & others safe.
  • Be mindful about their protection
    It is important to make sure there are enough supplies to protect workers from infection. This ranges from the appropriate cleaning supplies, masks, PPE kits, depending on the job requirement. A stressful work environment can also lead to unwarranted incidents so it is equally important to always protect your workers against harassment incidents, or any form of violence, physical or mental.
  • Encouraging peer support
    This can include anything from creating a platform for workers to connect and find support. Creating directories where entries are submitted by workers for all kinds of support like finding childcare, affordable mental health services & links to other kinds of support groups. Apart from this, if the workers are up for it then a system like a buddy system can be especially beneficial. People can choose to pair up with a worker they would like to learn more from.
  • Keeping the work environment healthy and safe
    Keep an open work environment where there can be a healthy exchange of communication between workers and management. It is absolutely essential to have a clear chain of communication and keep workers constantly updated with any new technical information, or guidelines. This one is difficult to follow during the pandemic but being aware of workers’ workload, trying to make sure they are able to take breaks, giving them the appropriate amount of time off might seem like a tiny thing but is essential to keep burnout at bay. Workers can also be rotated between high-pressure & low-pressure shifts to keep things balanced.
  • Make them aware of available support
    Frontline workers should have access to a mental health support system. Make sure the workers are aware of the services available to them and are able to access them confidentially. Some organizations also offer their workers with mental health care facilities in case of emergencies where psychotropic medication is also available.
    Many organizations like J&J have committed millions of dollars worth of donations to support front line workers. While not every organization has the capacity to do that, it is worthwhile to check the organizations they partner with to become aware of more support systems for front line workers. For example, some companies tie-up with mental health support groups that offer free services to frontline workers.
    While the above tips are those closely working with front line workers, here’s what the general community can do to support them.
  • Follow health guidelines
    The best way to support front line workers is by trusting science and being patient. This is novel situation the world was unprepared for People are working for a better and healthier tomorrow &  supporting them by staying home, following mask guidelines, sanitizing our hands, maintaining a distance max 6 feet is the most basic thing the general community can do. This ensures our safety and those around us.
  • Be patient
    If you are being served by a front line worker then please remember that they are probably overworked & dealing with stressful conditions on a daily basis. If you have to wait, or your order takes more than the usual time, then it’s best to be patient as a way to support them.
  • Don’t hoard
    Sanitizers and masks sure help save lives but they are probably more essential items for those who have to step out for their jobs and interact with other people. When the pandemic started, there was a shortage of masks, PPE kits, sanitizers and surprisingly, toilet paper. Please buy whatever is required & don’t hoard. Hospitals and other services which are open during the pandemic need these essential items more.