How IOSH networks have dealt with Covid-19

How have our Sector Groups been dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic? The Groups’ pages on the IOSH website present numerous examples of how they have sought to adapt and the kinds of communications they’ve been sending out to their members.

 Reorganising to reach out

The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Group Committee decided to hold weekly Zoom meetings for half an hour to keep engagement and communications with members. This kind of adjustment is typical of volunteers’ flexibility and commitment.

 Encouraging members

Hazardous Industries Group Chair Matt Clay posted a letter on the Group’s webpage, thanking members for “… your efforts to keep key utility systems, fuel supplies, pharmaceuticals and many other essential products and services flowing. Your roles may not have the same high profile as those in healthcare but they are vitally important.” Letters from the Chairs of the Offshore, Railway and Financial Services Groups give similar encouragement.

 Reminding members of their responsibilities

An update from the Construction Group Chair, Malcolm Shiels, supported the view that essential or critical construction or maintenance work (clearly linked to the fight against Covid-19) should carry on, with the proviso that employers are mindful of their duty of care to their employees. Teamwork is key and OSH professionals can help lead in the way they behave and take part in discussions. Members are reminded that, when they are involved in discussions and giving advice, they should

  • act with integrity
  • demonstrate competence
  • show respect to all
  • give accurate and proportionate service.

Gathering useful information

The Environmental and Waste Management Group’s April newsletter compiled relevant resources (www.iosh.com/media/7570/ewmg-april-2020-newsletter.pdf), including a link to information from the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum.

Meanwhile, members of the Sports Grounds and Events Group have written several articles that will be of interest to OSH professionals whichever sector they are working in. These include articles on home working and on positive mental health during the pandemic, as well as alerting members to a risk that might be overlooked: the possibility of an outbreak of legionnaires disease from dormant water systems in hotels and other venues.

Another article looks ahead and asks how we will know that safety-critical equipment will be legally compliant and fit for purpose, post-pandemic.

A time for self-reflection

Two video messages posted on the Theatre Advisory Group’s webpage show members sharing their personal challenges and coping mechanisms in the new work circumstances. Chair Dominique Perissin-Fabert charts the changes in her mood while working from home. Initially she was in denial – which she found ironic, as someone who had been trained in public health and epidemiology. She became angry and then depressed, particularly when she became ill (although she was not sure if this was the coronavirus), before accepting the situation and using her time productively: exercise, taking in lots of webinars – and drawing as a means of reflection and relaxation. Readers will readily recognise the phases as outlined in Kübler-Ross’s model of the five stages of grief.

Ben Harding, a member of the Group, talked about the transition from busy working schedule to almost a complete stop. The first week of the lock-down was especially hard. Everything was completely new, with no routines established and the need to manage time between work and domestic life. He spoke of the importance of the role of managers – not so much managing the work, but managing the team. As Ben put it, good managers are aware that “staff are not working from home during the crisis; staff are at home trying to work during this crisis.”

Keeping going in hard times

Some Groups will have been facing severe challenges: for example, the Aviation and Aerospace Group has members who may be working for companies with 70 to 90 per cent of staff furloughed and with the very real possibility of mass redundancy. Being forced to cancel or postpone meetings, the Sector Group committees have tried to overcome the dislocation and isolation caused by the pandemic by changing the frequency, medium and content of their communications. They have been staying in touch with their members and keeping them informed, motivated and engaged. That is an excellent achievement in itself.

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