NSC Calls for Protection of Essential Workers

With America’s essential workers carrying the country at the moment, their safety is incredibly important. The National Safety Council calls for their protection and safety.

Just last week, the National Safety Council (NSC) issued a call to business leaders across the U.S. to take “aggressive action” to ensure essential employee safety from COVID-19. Not only is this important because they are putting their health and lives at risk by reporting to work, but also because many get paid minimum wage and do not have access to good or any health care.

The Department of Homeland Security defines essential workers as those who “protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.” Essential workers include those in health care facilities, grocery stores, water utilities and other necessary work site—but many are already at an economic disadvantage, explains one article. Many of them earn lower wages and carry less health-related insurance. So, it’s not just the total number of jobs that matter, but a better understanding of who these workers are and the risks they face.

Some believe the recently passed economic aid package, as part of the CARES Act, does not do enough to protect essential workers. The aid package aside, though, the NSC’s call for essential worker protection is founded on some pretty notable statistics.

In a survey conducted, over 70 percent of NSC member companies indicated they have employees still reporting to work, unable to work remotely. Many of these employees are in critical roles and crucial to supporting the functioning of our society.

“In partnership with our employees, we as leaders must be vigilant as we grapple with a workplace safety issue we’ve never seen and face the challenge of protecting those on the front lines. In occupational safety, the onus to protect workers from all hazards, all the time, falls to employers, full stop. In this time of global crisis, we need to understand the critical responsibility we have to our workforce,” said the NSC.

It reminds employers that the risks these workers face are compounded by the current pandemic. Many companies are short on staff, so those remaining workers are being worked hard—which can lead to worker fatigue. Some employees will need proper training on new equipment and operations, so issues like distraction and complacency are important to address.

Everyone is stressed during this time—especially those reporting to work every day in essential industries. Business leaders need to understand that added stress can lead to substance use disorders—75 percent of businesses have been directly impacted by opioid misuse under usual conditions.

Hygiene is crucial as well—in general and during a pandemic. The NSC asks employers to make sure they are providing their workers right the best hygiene products.

“…ensure your workers reporting to job sites practice the federal government’s directives for hygiene. Provide disinfectant so workers can clean high-touch surfaces every two hours. Make sure they can practice physical distancing recommendations and follow CDC workplace guidelines. We not only need healthy workers today, but we will need a healthy workforce when it comes time to return to usual work environments and routines,” said the NSC.

“Preventative measures today are critical, including following CDC guidance for disinfecting and cleaning buildings and facilities after an employee tests positive for COVID-19. The guidance includes closing off areas used by the sick person, opening windows and doors and waiting 24 hours after the sick employee leaves the facility to start cleaning and disinfecting, if feasible.”

It can be easy to be frustrated or discouraged at your own job or economic situation, but it’s also important to remember who are helping keep operations afloat during this pandemic. Essential workers are not only reporting to work, but they are putting their health and lives at risk to do so.

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