The National Safety Council (NSC) recently held its first virtual 202ONE Congress & Expo to share the latest safety data and research. The congress was titled The Year of the Safety Hero to thank unsung heroes for their tireless work during the pandemic. Even though the undertone was related to a challenging year with the spread and uncertainty of COVID-19, experts covered everything from mental health to AI’s newfound role in workplace safety. We zeroed in on the highlights that matter most to you and your safety.
Returning to the Office Won’t Be Easy
It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began and working from home became the new norm. But the increase in vaccinations means that companies are now creating plans to return to work.
Senior Director of Thought Leadership at the NSC, John Dony, shared that the NSC and Human Resources departments nationwide are looking at COVID-19 safety measures including temperature checks, health screenings, contact tracing and testing capabilities. There are also concerns about what steps are most effective in preventing the virus spread and about the cost for companies that would like employees to return to the office.
Experts are holding extensive discussions around what returning to normal will look like for employees. The big focus is on mental health through training, increased paid time off (PTO) and flexible work arrangements. Human Resource teams are also looking into what the workplace will look like for vaccinated employees compared to those who cannot get the vaccine. There are also concerns around the politics of mask mandates and state policies. Dony encouraged employers and employees to evaluate the vaccine’s efficiency and impact on the workplace strategy.
Look out for more communication from your employer about the company’s plans to return to the office. Your company may use the NSC resources to determine risks and create plans for a safe and practical return to the office.
Mental Health Safety Is Key
The topic of mental health has suffered from stigmas surrounding the subject. But the ongoing difficulties in the pandemic have created more discussion around mental health and creating a safe space for people to talk about stress and their well-being. The NSC is focused on removing health stigmas and understanding what a safe workplace environment looks like for employees, whether working from home or in the office.
Expect a lot more news and conversations about mental health when it comes to personal safety. Experts recommended mental health training and encouraging Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) for personal and professional support services and resources. Communities and companies are also planning to increase mindfulness and relaxation practices to combat fatigue as pandemic states improve.
Distracted Driving Still a Top Concern
Distracted driving is still a top safety concern despite fewer people being on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, drivers are distracted on their phones for an average of 23 seconds at over 10mph.
Cambridge Mobile Telematics’ Vice President of Insurance and Government Affairs, Ryan McMahon, believes that each state’s communication around their distracted driving laws is most important for road safety. The law helps state if the driver’s actions are wrong or not, and it’s the starting point for safe driving. Driving distraction laws are effective when first implemented, but regulations can go unnoticed as communication around the law and penalties lessen.
McMahon highlighted Vitality Drive and other rewards-driven programs to encourage safe driving. But it all boils down to your state’s communication on driving laws and distracted driving statistics. He also shared that having someone else in the car is safer in terms of phone distraction. The driver is less likely to use their phone and the driver has an extra set of eyes.
As for technology’s role in distracted driving, researchers are still evaluating the impact of self-driving cars and new car smart features and touchscreen technology.
The Future of Safety Is AI
There are early discussions around artificial intelligence’s impact on the workplace and personal safety. Currently, many people work from home, but many employees were before the pandemic. Fortunately, the pandemic has strengthened technology personally and professionally for many. More processes are streamlined and automated. And now, AI has the power to help us solve problems in the workplace post COVID-19 herd immunity, but it could do more harm than good.
However, there are still a few concerns related to the evolution of workplace technology. Who will pay for any injuries or security issues where AI is used for physical labor — your company or the manufacturer? Who pays to prevent or care for a contractor’s workplace injury? Experts also are figuring out the best way to determine that sensors and technology are working correctly. The biggest concern is about privacy and security for workers, including data access. Companies may need occupational safety and health data decision scientists for validity and security help.
New Safety Products Are on the Horizon
Featured companies like Honeywell and 3M debuted several new products and services at the expo to help improve workplace safety. But a few are even helpful for personal security and peace of mind. Here are our top three safety picks.
- Honeywell 3D Knitted Masks: The CDC recommends double-masking to slow the COVID-19 spread. But Honeywell’s 3D knitted masks give extra layers for a comfortable but breathable fit. The masks are reusable, washable and you can add a filter for additional protection if you choose. The 3D knitted cover is designed to have 5x filtration compared to others.
- Life Hammer: Life Hammer is an award-winning product designed to break glass and cut seat belts to escape during a car accident or emergency. It’s a ceramic device that’s easy to use for both adults and children. Just press the safety hammer against the car’s side or rear window using the non-slip grip to escape. Life Hammer is easy to install on the side of your car door or in the middle console.
- Bodytrak: Bodytrak is a healthy safety wearable for athletes and contractors. The Bluetooth wearable is an earpiece that monitors your health and safety metrics, including body temperature, heart rate, and falls. The device also has two-way audio to call for help if needed quickly. You can see Bodytrak’s data on other Bluetooth devices, including your smartphone.
This recap is just the start of our coverage. We’ll be sharing more in-depth information and research from the NSC Congress & Expo on Safety.com.