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#58: SAFER Update with Lorraine Martin - COVID-19 Special

May 27, 2020 | 24 minutes 37 seconds

In this episode, podcast series host Jill James is joined by Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. Lorraine returns with an update on the SAFER task force. SAFER stands for Safe Actions For Employee Returns. This task force, comprised of world-leading companies, is helping employers prioritize and plan for effectively bringing their employees back to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Come listen and see what has happened since we last saw Lorraine in episode 55.

Links and Show Notes

More info on SAFER: nsc.org/safer

SAFER Playbooks: https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/safety-topics/safe-actions-for-employee-returns-safer/safer-playbooks

Transcript

Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health & Safety Institute. This is a special edition of the podcast, which was recorded on May 26, 2020. My name is Jill James, the Health & Safety Institute's Chief Safety Officer. And today I'm joined by Lorraine Martin, who is president and CEO of the National Safety Council. If you think you've inadvertently clicked on the wrong episode because it seems like you just heard from Lorraine, I assure you, you are in the right place. Lorraine is back to give us an update as to how NSC and the SAFER task force has met the goals, Lorraine spoke of in episode 55, just one month ago. So Lorraine, welcome back.

Lorraine:

No, thank you for having me.

Jill:

Can you remind our audience what is SAFER? I mentioned that it's an acronym, but what is it and why is it needed?

Lorraine:

Sure. So SAFER stands for Safe Actions For Employee Returns. And as you just said, we started this about just shy of a month ago, when it was very clear that we knew employers were going to need help to prioritize and plan for what they would need to do to bring their employees back to work safely, across America and across all kinds of different industries in different kinds of work environments. And the centerpiece of SAFER is a task force that came together from Fortune 500 companies, leading safety organizations, various government agencies, public health entities, all dedicated to sharing whatever best practices they had and enabling the task force to sort of break up into smaller groups and then bring those best practices together, aggregate them, and then be able to provide playbooks or sort of roadmaps for folks to use as they were bringing their employees back to work safely. So in some sense, sort of the conglomerate safety voice for workplaces to be able to navigate this very unexpected, and complex in many ways, a challenge that we all have to enable us.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Sounds like an amazing task force. Are there companies that are still joining in the effort?

Lorraine:

There are. So we have over 70 entities that are now part of the task force. Many of them, as I said before, are companies, but others are from different walks of life as well. And I think we just, as recent as this last Thursday, had two more folks join us.

Jill:

Okay. Very good. So people can reach out to you if they're interested in joining.

Lorraine:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah. Very good. Very good. You had mentioned that the task force has accomplished a lot to date. Tell us more about what it is or a little bit about these playbooks.

Lorraine:

Yeah. So the task force has been working diligently to really understand what could be most useful for the widest variety and impact within industry in the US. And first and foremost, we looked at all of the different sort of frameworks that big companies were using, especially ones that had global operations. And they were already coming back online in China, France, Italy, and asking, what did you need to do that? What kinds of categories of safety procedures and practices were needed?

And we broke it down into six main categories. Physical environments, how to create the environment so you can be safe. Medical issues, such as temperature taking, attestation, I always get that word wrong, statements of whether or not you've been ill and where you've been, issues such as testing and tracing. The third one being mental health and a lot of plans had this and some didn't. Really asking yourself how are your employees in their mental state, in their wellbeing, in their understanding about these very big transitions of perhaps working from home, or having other sort of personal demands on them right now with kids in school, at home, or parents who are taking care of it.

Jill:

Just being afraid.

Lorraine:

Just being afraid of their own safety and health. Absolutely. So mental health is the third. Communication needs. A fourth of the good companies really have some very comprehensive ways of communicating where they are, what's changing, what their employees need to do differently. External considerations having to do with things that are happening around you, that you may not control within your business.

And then finally employment and human resources tasks. So these six categories look like the most important aspects of really good frameworks, and so we put them together in their own little framework, we got the best practices under each of them. And then we issued a framework, that is the SAFER framework, that then you can use to either bounce off a playbook that you've already developed, or perhaps to provide the bones of your own playbook, of how to ensure you have the best practices in those six key areas. As you build your ... come to work or return to operations playbooks.

That was published since we last talked. In addition to that, we also published four key sort of tailored playbooks that have to do with the environment you're in. So one's for office spaces, one's for closed industrial settings, one for open industrial settings, and then the fourth for public spaces or places where you're interacting with the public, or customers that you really have no control of, but you need to make sure that they're safe and you're safe as well. So it's the six areas in the framework. And then we slice for these four key kind of holistic work environments, so that you had some very specific ways of navigating the uniqueness of those work environments. And those have all been published and put on the website. Folks nationwide had been using them to, as I said, either create their own playbooks or to have as a touchstone to a playbook they may have, to make sure they've got everything that they need.

Jill:

Yeah. Perfect. Yeah. If I had time to take a look at some of the playbooks, and they really are great Lorraine, I specifically was looking at the public one, because of a person in my life has leadership in a place of worship and that's one of the industries that the public one touches on. And so I thought it was really great to be able to compare what NSC has put together, with what their particular individual organization has put together, and then what the state, where the operation is taking place is put together. So you can kind of see like, is there anything we missed here? And what's, common with these threads to really, really help employers shore up success for themselves right now.

Lorraine:

Yeah. I'm so glad that that was useful and I hope that others do the same. That they use it as kind of a gauge to make sure that they've got all the things that they need to keep, not only their employees, but as you said, in the public settings, all the folks that they come to interact with.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. Lorraine, what else has the task force been accomplishing? It sounds like this is a lot, has there been more as well?

Lorraine:

Yeah. So all of those materials were put together by subgroups under the task force. So folks from all walks of life, medical, legal, HR, safety, came together to help create those. They also then stepped back and said, are there just some things that we just have to all do? Something universal, that as you're looking at your actions, that you can just have on a little card and say to myself, "Did I take care of all of these?" And we've been now putting out sort of just social media reminders on each of these, just to sort of tickle everybody a bit and say, "If you haven't done this, make sure you've got something here. And there just as easy as I'm going to list them for you. Everybody needs to have a phasing approach. They need to know that they've are transitioning to work aligned with the risk and the exposure for the people and for the work that needs to be gone. So phasing.

Everybody needs an approach for sanitizing. Making sure that their employees return to a workplace that is safe, that is clean, and that just gets sanitized over time, in order to protect them, whatever the situation may be, including physical distancing.

Screenings. Making sure you have a health screening process, however that might be for your risk profile. Both for your employees, and in some cases, even for the public, you might be interacting with.

Hygiene. creating a plan to help sick employees. And what are you going to do if that happens in your environment and how are you going to ensure that you can handle it on the spot?

Tracing. For proper contact tracing steps, If you do have a worker that gets sick, and you have to understand how it might've addressed or impacted other aspects of your operation.

Mental health, as we talked about before. Training. Engagement plans for communicating and notifying your employees if things change because they will change. This is something that none of us can say, "We have all the answers today." And certainly, we're learning every day more, not only about the disease, but what we need to do.

So engagement plans, communication, and then assessments. Making sure that you have a way of understanding how to assess your many factors for your organization. So those are just 10 kind of easy ways to say, "Am I looking at my challenge of being at work safely from these universal actions and making sure that they fit for my environment, for my employees, and for where I am in the risk profile?" So just another sort of tip sheet.

Jill:

Yeah. It really sounds like this is something that can scale up and down for both small employers and large ones as well. It doesn't sound like something that's for a specific size of company.

Lorraine:

Yeah. That is really important to us because we have 16,000 members of the council and we really also wanted to consider any business in the US, our customer as well. To make sure that we're giving materials and guidance to anyone from a two shop, garage shop with two people there, to 20,000 employees that are working in some kind of a manufacturing environment. So it was important. And you do have to scale it to your risk, to your environment, to the operation that you have, ensuring that you're looking at your unique environment, literally your environment, the doors, the aisle ways. If you have a manufacturing line, how far are people apart? Can you make it so that they can be further apart? All of those things are unique to your situation, but we're hoping that these playbooks and these tips sheets really do transcend some of that and really give you a guide, no matter how big, small, how many sites that you have, and what operation you're conducting. They can give you a good framework to go forward safely.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Lorraine, what advice do you have for businesses that are reopening or are planning to reopen soon?

Lorraine:

Yeah, the first and foremost thing, is to make sure that you're listening to your local guidance, city, county, state, federal, to assess your level of risk. It's not all the same. And it's really important for you to know the community that you're in, the rules that they've established, and specifically how the disease and the virus is progressing in your area. So first and foremost, start there. And my recommendation is follow the recommendations that are being provided. That's hard to do when we're all itching to get back outside and get back to what we're doing and we want all these businesses to be back doing the thing that they love and the joy that they have of serving whatever mission they serve. At the same time, we need to do so safely because we really don't want this to be something that we take a step forward and then two step backwards. And if we don't do this carefully, it's likely that that could happen. And we will have cases of that.

But make sure your physical workplace is safe, not only for the virus and the extra precautions we need, but safe in general. We know what safety looks like. I'm talking to The Accidental Safety Podcast here and we know that there's all kinds of things that we used to have to remind ourselves everyday to keep safe and to make sure that we are aware, to double down on those. Make sure you're using all the PPE you always used before, and then the additive protections that we're going to have today. So it's really important that employers really look at those procedures, monitor your situation, not only for standard health and standard safety, but for this new aspect, and then be able to react. You might not get it right and you're going to have to adjust something. I was telling someone the other day, we're going to have to have a lot of humility as safety professionals. We're so used to knowing the answer and saying, "You wear these steel-toed shoes and I'm pretty darn sure I got you protected." We don't know all that. We don't have all the answers.

Jill:

Right. Great, great word. In fact, it was used by Dr. Scott Geller in the last podcast that was released about humility and how it's so important right now. So thank you for that reminder as well. So Kevvy, in terms of consequences what precautions, what advice would you offer for employers? What do you think could happen if employers aren't enforcing their rules or their jurisdictional rules when they begin to reopen?

Lorraine:

The most severe consequence is that we could put the health and lives of our workforces around the world and those that they serve at risk. And there's nothing more important than making sure that the people that are doing the things that your enterprise exists to do, and that you again, have joy bringing to the world, that they're able to do that safely. That's what we know every day and we have to know and double down and practice it even more so today when we have this health crisis in front of us. So we must prioritize safety to prevent both injuries and make sure that we're saving lives.

So when I think about the consequences, that's where I start. We need to do this safely. We want our economy up and running, but for the first time across our entire nation, our economies success is going to be based on how well we keep our employees and those would they interact with safely, as they navigate this. And that's our job. So the consequences are big, but they also are great in a positive way, if we can do this successfully so that we can get the engine running again.

Jill:

That's right. That's right. How do you feel geographics and the geographic nature of the virus and unique state plans add to all of this complexity and what does NSC recommend? Or any other additional plans you have for companies to navigate, particularly those national ones.

Lorraine:

Yeah. And even since the few weeks since we last talked Jill, it has changed so much. And thankfully, things are starting to progress forward. There are places where the disease is beginning to abate, which is wonderful. But it isn't uniform across the US and it's not even uniform across states. It doesn't know state or county boundaries. And usually, we like to implement solutions for safety and say, "Here's the answer." And do it the same everywhere. And this isn't one where uniformity really is available to us. So we have to get the best practices. We have to be cognizant of state and local guidelines and current situation. And then we have provided some tools where you can go on, and we usually use the John Hopkins database, which shows where have the infections and death rates been and what kind of procedures are now in place.

We also are partnering with the National Governors Association who are part of the task force because they have a central database for all the governors rules, and regulations, and recommendations. So you've got to kind of cross-correlate all of that, and hopefully that NSC on the website we've made that easier than it might've been otherwise, to be able to look at that. But my advice is, follow the local rules. If you're in multiple states or multiple counties have someone help keep track of all of that because it isn't one size fits all, and we all need to make sure that we're doing this at the right time and at the right speed, based on what's going on for you wherever you happen to operate.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah and that's not necessarily news for employers who have been operating under a federal or state OSHA jurisdictions. It's just adding another, it's adding another layer right now. It's really great to hear that you are curating and working with the ... Did you call it the governor's task force?

Lorraine:

It's the National Governors Association. So yeah, it is a group that provides sort of a one stop to get some of the advocacy and positions of the governors. And it's really, really helpful.

Jill:

Yeah. How assuring. That's fabulous. So what do you think are some of the top things employers should be thinking about right now, but maybe they're not?

Lorraine:

You touched on it when you asked about the mental health side and I put that on our list. It's really important that you understand how much stress, you yourself might be under as an employer, as a safety leader, the folks that you're leading and that are coming back to work and ensuring that they're safe. They want to know that they're safe when they come back to work. So one of the things that I asked for you, as you are looking at this, and many of our employees have had to be at work this entire time. They aren't returning to work. They've been working. They've been in the grocery stores. They've been behind the drivers in our trucking and transportation business, our healthcare workers.

But if you have had the ability to have your folks work from home, or work in a different location to keep them safe, ask yourself why you're returning them to a traditional work environment and when you really need to. Because some of that might cause you to just say, "I don't have to go back to what it was before if I can add a degree of safety." Let's keep people out a little bit longer if I can still get the business done. Not everybody has that leisure, but where we do, we can reduce the complexity and focus on those environments where they really do need to be back into their traditional work environment.

So you might not be thinking of it that way, but ask yourself why, before you say when. And then put those two together. So mental health, and then really, doing this when you need to do it. You're going to see a lot of different things about how your employees are behaving, what's on their mind, be patient. We talked about humility before because we're not going to always get it right. And when we don't have it right, we got to be quick to say, "We didn't know we needed to do X, and we need to add that in and sorry, we didn't have it before, but now we understand this is important."

We didn't know for a while that this virus could be communicated by folks who are asymptomatic. That changes a lot of dynamics for us. And just being able to say, now we realize you may not look sick and you may not even perceive to be sick with temperature and I still have to figure out how I make sure that you're safe to be interacting with other people. And we're going to learn more. Hopefully it will help us navigate this but, I really think it's important for you to be aware of your employees, meet them where they are, listen to them, make sure that you're asking why, and then when about returning to work environments. And finally, be looking for those silver linings. Safety's top of everybody's mind right now. There's got to be ways that we can leverage that and just make this something that we don't lose. That we care about the health and safety of workers, like we've never done before and we continue to do in the future. So that's when I would add to the list as well.

Jill:

Very good. Yeah. And those silver linings, as hard as that sounds, is when we're on this pause and really thinking, like you had said, is there a different way to do things? Do we need to rush back into it? And some of those silver linings might be a reassessment and discovery of a way to do work that's more efficient, or different, or better for the consumer and the employee. And we're a country of ingenuity for certain, and there might be some really excellent ingenuity that comes from this as well as one of those silver linings.

Lorraine:

Yep. So keep our eyes up. And make sure you put them in your pocket so you don't lose them.

Jill:

That's right. Considering of the things that we may be taking in and out of our pockets these days, it might be personal protective equipment. What would NSC like to share, with regard to personal protective equipment to employers right now?

Lorraine:

Yeah there's a well-documented now, understanding of some of the things that we need to have in place and that employees should do. So clearly, those are well articulated in our frameworks and I don't need to report those. But depending on the job site, again, remember that there's a lot of other PPE that needs to be continued to be worn. Goggles and garments and other kinds of things that have been in our workplace for some time and in some cases, can help with the virus control as well, as in addition to the standard PPE, that's kind of been added to all of our lists.

In addition to that, the availability of some of the PPE that we're all looking for is still an issue for a lot of work environments. So that's something we all need to be cognizant of. And it's certainly one of the areas the task force going to continue to look at. So as I point you to going forward, the taskforce is going to be looking at where are some of these headwinds, these things that are kind of more holistic or systemic that are getting in the way of us implementing these frameworks in a way that's effective. And making sure that we have available PPE, that it's trusted PPE, and it's in the hands of the folks that need to use it, is one of those potential headwinds.

So it's just one of about a half a dozen of things that we've said. Even though we know what to do, we need to make sure that people have what they need and that, whether it's materials, or regulations, or guidance from federal governments. So we're going to continue to look at those things that might slow us down a bit. And I don't have that list for you now, but maybe in a couple of weeks, I will.

Jill:

And we'll happily have you back. Lorraine, is there anything else you'd like to share about the work of the task force SAFER?

Lorraine:

No, if she said there's anything you need, either to test your plans or to build one if you haven't done that so, please come to the SAFER website at nsc.org/safer and pick up and use anything that can be of use to you. This will evolve, so come back again. Because it could be that things change and you may need something in a couple of weeks that you didn't know you needed today, and we may have a resource for you. So we're really just glad to be able to be back with you Jill and to share this with everyone. We so appreciate our task force. They have done all this heavy lifting here to help us make sure that we had some, as you said, some tools that really can transcend size, scale, and industry, so that we all can have the learning. So some of the best practices. So thank you for having me. It's always a joy.

Jill:

Yeah. Thank you. And we will include in the show notes, the link to the assets that you're talking about. And your team has done such an excellent job of curating them and making them so accessible. It's not difficult to navigate the website at all. So thank you so much. And thanks for coming back on the show. And thank you all for spending your time listening today, And more importantly, thank you for your contribution, making sure your workers, including your temporary workers, make it home safe every day.

If you'd like to join the conversation about this episode, or any of our previous episodes, you can follow our page and join The Accidental Safety Pro community group on Facebook. If you're not subscribed and want to hear past or future episodes, you can subscribe in iTunes, the Apple podcast app, or any other podcast player you'd like. You can also find all of our episodes at vividlearningsystems.com/podcast. You can go ahead and leave a rating and review us on iTunes so that we can connect the show with more and more safety professionals like you and I, and Lorraine. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, please contact me at socialatvividlearningsystems.com. Special thanks to Will Moss, our podcast producer. Until next time, thanks for listening.