OSHA Safe and Sound Week - Surveying employees on how Covid impacted their perspective on workplace safety

11 August 2021
OSHA Safe and Sound Week 2021

As part of our recognition of OSHA’s Safe and Sound week, we sat down with a wide variety of Focus team members to find out how the global pandemic impacted their perception of workplace safety. From accounting to construction, team members had different takeaways, but everyone agreed that they are more aware of the importance of a safe workplace than they were before. More from our conversation below.

How did Covid-19 change how you think about safety in the workplace?

Kendall Lettinga, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Administration: As a development and construction company, we already spent a lot of time thinking about workplace safety, but that energy was primarily focused on our active job sites. With Covid-19, our attentions had to double. We had to develop a plan for our corporate office, previously an extremely safe space and determine how to keep an active construction site safe within the new context which often meant sanitized. Focusing on illness transmission has been an important shift which took a lot of education across the entire team.

Nikki Schade, Senior Project Accountant: I actually think about my safety in the workplace now.

How did you think about safety before and after the pandemic?

Jessica Keuck, Executive Assistant: Other than during Safety Week, I hadn't given a lot of thought about safety, since I spend most of my time at a desk and the perceived risks aren't as apparent as they are on the jobsite. Now I think about safety everywhere I go, whether it's at the grocery store or getting my oil changed I am now more aware of the risks and the steps we can take in our day to day to make the workplace safe for everyone.

Alberto Gomez, Assistant Project Manager: Previously, I never considered wearing a mask for day-to-day illness prevention. Now, I have seen the results and recognize the benefits. As an Assistant Project Manager, I spent time on our active jobsites during the pandemic and not only did I not contract the coronavirus, I also did not catch a flu or a cold all season.

Kendall Lettinga: Previously we mostly focused on keeping our job sites safe and were very aware of concerns about workplace violence. During the pandemic, illness transmission became our priority. Understanding how Covid was transmitted and how best to protect our employees was our priority. After the pandemic, I think this will still be a concern for us, as illness transmission should continue to be a concern. I'd love to see people wearing masks if they are fighting a cold or work remotely when on the tail end of a communicable disease.

Preconstruction hardhat

What changes did you have to make?

Kendall Lettinga: We completely overhauled our standard office practices, we installed barriers, mandated the use of masks, modified the coffee station, stopped utilizing the dishwasher... So many small, but meaningful decisions had to be made to reduce potential spread and help employees feel safe. As with many things, we learned as we went, and we continue to adjust our policies to flex with fluctuating guidelines.

Alberto: Making, then eventually buying masks, and wearing them everywhere we went. At first it was uncomfortable, but once I grew accustomed to it, the mask was no big deal.

Jacob Ross, Assistant Development Manager: It’s clear that stopping a virus is very difficult. Aside from wearing a mask around the office to reduce spread, we had to wait for the science to catch up to develop vaccination and treatment options. In the interim, I determined that my best defense was to continue taking care of myself, exercising, practicing great hygiene, and maintain safe distance from others.

Jessica Keuck: Last summer, I elected to come into the office more and more because I felt that I worked better when I wasn't at home full-time. My husband would drop me off in the morning but to avoid public transportation, I would walk the three miles home everyday. Not only was it the safest option, but I loved getting the extra exercise!

Which of those new behaviors do you think will stick with you past the pandemic?

Alberto Gomez: Wearing a mask during the winter and on public transportation. It is such a small inconvenience that saves me from the pains of cold and flu season and helps to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Nikki Schade: I will continue to wear masks in places I feel are threats to my safety too. It’s an easy change to make with clear benefits for me and those around me.

Jacob Ross: Frequent exercise and a healthy diet are two new behaviors I want to stick around. I find myself more aware of my immune health and by staying active and establishing good behaviors I will only bolster my own personal defenses making it safer for me and those around me.

You may or may not have experience with OSHA safety requirements, talk about how Covid changed your awareness of safety and the importance of your attention to it at work.

Jacob Ross: Covid was an important eye-opener for all of us. Before the vaccine, there wasn’t much that could be done in terms of preventing the virus aside from masking and maintaining social distance. The level of attention paid to safety was turned way up and that awareness will carry over for years to come, including in the workplace.

Jessica Keuck: When I thought of OSHA in the past, I correlated it directly to keeping people safe from harm and injury, but now I also consider it a vital component of keeping our employees healthy as well, which is just as important.

To learn more about Focus’ safety standards onsite and in the office, please reach out today.

And to learn more about OSHA Safe and Sound Week or how to participate, visit their website.

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Next Article - Focus partners with Project REAP as part of company-wide JEDI commitment.

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