The National Safety Council (NSC) recently published COVID-19 Workplace Lessons Learned and Future Actions for a SAFER Tomorrow, a report that presents findings from research conducted over the past year by the NSC, with recommendations for employers as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.
This report covers topics such as:
- Worker health, wellbeing, and workplace safety, with insights on mental health, physical safety and COVID-19 safety, psychological safety, and employee assistance programs
- Control measures and the impacts of the pandemic on workplace safety, covering topics such as ventilation and filtration, PPE and physical barriers, modification of access points, and COVID-19 case management
- Vaccine uptake, hesitancy, requirements, and boosting
- The future of work, including automation and technology, contact tracing, remote work, long-term worker health and wellness, and emergency preparedness for future infectious diseases
Regarding mental health, it was found that feeling unsafe at work, whether physically or psychologically, is associated with negative mental health outcomes, and workers who felt unsafe at work were two-to-three times more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.
In fact, half of large employers reported an uptick in mental health or impairment-related absences, injuries, or incidents during the pandemic, with 40% of employers receiving more frequent concerns from supervisors about the mental health of their direct reports, and over half of employers received direct requests from workers on Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offerings.
Of employers with an EAP, one in four had implemented their programs for the first time, and two-thirds expanded EAP offerings in response to the greater need for EAP resources during the pandemic.
Regarding the differential impact of the pandemic across industries, COVID-19 case management that involved contact tracing and testing and isolation for exposed workers was associated with significantly lower case rates in all work environments. Ventilation and filtration modifications were also significantly associated with lower case rates in healthcare, education, and public-facing workplaces.
The report noted that across all industries, workplace testing for COVID-19 is nearly twice as common among workers who are members of a labor union. Workplace testing was the most common in the healthcare industry, with 48% of workers testing positive at least once.
However, approximately 20-25% of workers in healthcare, education, and public-facing settings reported feeling unsafe at work due to the risk of catching COVID-19.
And regarding vaccine uptake, hesitancy and employer policies, in August of 2022, 70% of organizations with more than 250 employees required proof of vaccination from some or all workers, and 79% of requirement policies included booster doses. On average, employers with vaccine requirements retained 99% of their workforce. Among employers who noticed a change in morale after vaccine requirements took effect, two-thirds noted that change was an improvement in morale.