2020 in Hindsight

This year has not been easy. In fact, it has been very difficult for everyone around the globe. We realized we had been taking the most mundane parts of our lives for granted: having a routine, making plans, sharing a handshake or even getting to visit with close family. All of these went from certainties to uncertainties with the onset of COVID-19.

Not only were our personal lives impacted, but so was business—workers were sidelined for months at a time, offices went virtual, factories became socially distanced and faces hidden by mandated face coverings.

It has been incredible to watch the professionals in the safety industry maneuver around all of the obstacles thrown at them. You have had to learn a lot this year, but it has led to considerable growth. I would like to highlight three things that have stood out to me this year, like diamonds in the rough of the year 2020.

First, safety professionals live by the motto “expect the unexpected,” and 2020 put that to the test. While many around the world were caught by surprise at the news of a global pandemic, safety professionals took it in stride, pulling out their binders full of information on infectious diseases and previous plans used against outbreaks such as H1N1 and Ebola. As researchers learned more about SARS-CoV-2, safety professionals listened and adapted. They implemented changes quickly and listened to workers when something did not work. These moves saved lives and kept workers safe—that should not be taken lightly.

We also learned that in the most challenging of times, employees still show up. As offices sit empty around the country, the business charges forward at full speed ahead. While the work may look different now, with employees working from home, covered in PPE, or social distanced, we have realized that productivity does not cease. If anything, employees are more devoted to their work now than ever before.

And lastly, but clearly not to be forgotten: PPE manufacturers in the U.S. have stepped up to produce millions of face masks, face coverings, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment to aid Americans in this time of need. Companies that were already producing PPE rose to the occasion by donating and multiplying their production, while companies that weren’t initially in the PPE vertical reached out to others that could help them get the ball rolling so they could produce. This ingenuity, selflessness and grace should not be excluded from this list of diamonds in the rough.

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that before anything else, the health of our workers is our greatest investment. Let’s move onward and upward. See you next year.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the former editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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