Employers should ensure the safety of workers

Confident, young woman working in a manufacturing plant. [Courtesy]

If there is one aspect of human life that has been fundamentally overturned by the coronavirus pandemic, it is the world of work.

While a number of people have lost their jobs, with Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) putting the number at over 1.7 million between March and June, 2020, those who still have jobs have had to radically change the way they conduct them. 

Globally, there has been a shift from the traditional workplace to what is now referred to as workspaces. While hitherto most employees were required to report to specific workplace to log in the hours, a good number today are working from home and collaborate with colleagues through internet connection and virtual meeting applications. 

A recent study by transnational consultancy McKinsey shows that employee productivity and customer satisfaction have actually increased during the pandemic. This, despite 90 per cent of organisations adopting a hybrid working model, where critical staff work from formal work premises in shifts to ensure physical distancing, while the rest execute remotely.

Based on this realisation, and with the virus showing no signs of abating, many organisations are likely to continue with the hybrid model into the foreseeable future. In such context, employers and human resource professionals need to put in place resilient systems that can mitigate Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) risks at the traditional workplaces and workspaces. This is because while some employees can work from home (WFH), some roles, of necessity, still require employees to work from the office and other company-owned facilities.

Previously, employers could afford the luxury of limiting their OSH risk mitigation measures to their own offices and facilities by, for instance, supplying employees with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and regular fumigation of work sites. They now have to worry about the home environment too, where a substantial number of their employees are working from, if they hope to achieve and sustain optimal productivity levels.

For staff working from home, employers will have to be creative to ensure their safety and optimal performance. The constitution of the home working environment can no longer be left to the employee alone. At Vivo Energy Kenya, for instance, we have provided our employees with ICT tools and reliable internet connectivity to enable them work effectively. Second, we have partnered with a reliable supplier to ensure that our employees get appropriate, affordable, and ergonomic furniture for their home work stations.

Alive to the reality that truth was the first casualty of the pandemic, fuelled by constant misinformation on virtually every aspect of the contagion, these measures are being supplemented by an active communication and awareness creation campaign, delivered through virtual sessions featuring company doctors and people infected and affected by Covid-19, among other tactics.

Mr. Muchoki is Vivo Energy Kenya’s Health, Safety, Security and Environment [email protected]