Prioritizing Worker Well-Being for Work Zone Awareness Week

There's no doubt that COVID-19 has many people feeling ragged and worn out. But when it comes to workplace safety, fatigue and exhaustion can quickly lead to disaster. For tradespeople committed to doing good work every day, it's easy to ignore the first signs of fatigue.

This year, 2021's National Work Zone Awareness Week looks a little different than usual. Life during COVID-19 has changed in numerous ways, and it's more important than ever to remind laborers that taking care of themselves is the best way to stay safe on a job.

While some businesses may already have safety awareness plans in place, their strategies don't always work to effectively protect their team. Often, it's because safety awareness plans focus only on physical wellness and safety. Only now are companies realizing how crucial it is to support their teams' mental and emotional well-being, too.

Here are some helpful tools for small businesses and corporations to focus on improving worker well-being and safety.

Why Well-Being Is Critical for Laborers

During this time of instability, many professional laborers are glad to be Proudly Essential Pros. However, even if the threat of lost jobs may not be imminent, it may still be present in the minds of laborers.

Circumstances with your employees' families may have changed due to COVID-19, and those changes can directly impact workers' mental health. According to a recent survey from Simply Business UK, 76% of tradespeople feel the pandemic has caused a dip in their mental health, while one in five laborers report their mental health as bad or very bad.

Part of being Proudly Essential Pros; however, is that the work doesn't stop. Many tradespeople have been going on service calls and working on jobsites throughout 2020 and 2021. It became part of laborers' jobs to put jobsite safety and health concerns aside if they wanted to keep working.

While some laborers may be thankful for the extra hours, others may be struggling to juggle their home lives and work lives. In fact, 38% of employees don't believe they can take time off to care for their mental health. 
As managers and supervisors, part of creating a safer work zone is encouraging time off to help employees be at their best. Scheduling, communication, and proper breaks or time off play crucial roles in ensuring work zone safety.

How to Support Worker Well-Being

Mental and emotional health concerns may not currently have an obvious place in your workplace safety plan, but following OSHA fatigue guidelines means more than assigning fewer hours or ensuring your team isn't falling asleep on the job.

It may be time to disperse work more intentionally now that 20% of workers report regularly losing two to three more hours of sleep during the pandemic. Scheduling can play a meaningful role in how to reduce workplace fatigue, but it's hard to know who needs more support when well-being isn't part of your regular communication. 
Instead of asking team members if they're available to take a job, ask how many hours of quality sleep they had last night and the night before. If they're working on fewer than 10 total hours of quality sleep, they may pose a danger to themselves and other workers on the jobsite.

Having open conversations with your team about what's going on at home can help you create schedules that work for your employees and avoid worker burnout or exhaustion. If employees' home lives distract them while on the job, they can inadvertently create jobsite hazards for themselves and other workers.

Injuries happen when employees aren't fully engaged at work. Understanding if your worker is struggling and where they could use support can make all the difference in reducing workplace fatigue. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Coast Guard have even created similar structures to prioritize their employees' well-being. 

If a worker is concerned about finances, offering them more overtime hours can alleviate worries and help them sleep better when they're away from work. Meanwhile, if an employee needs a break or asks for help to balance their work and home commitments, suggesting some time off or shifting their hours can help them prioritize their mental health. 

While it may seem like a big step to consider your employees' individual mental and emotional health needs, you may find that opening up the conversation makes scheduling easier for you. One employee's needs can balance out another, creating an equally effective workforce that's both happier and healthier.

Strategies to Help Managers Prioritize Employee Safety

Seeing the impact of fatigue on work zone safety is an important first step for business owners and workers alike. Safety courses that address the impacts of COVID-19 on workplace stress and fatigue are a great start to foster jobsite safety during Work Zone Awareness Week.

Creating a culture of open communication can play a major role in creating a safer work zone, too. Businesses and employees need to be flexible to find which solutions improve workers' physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Encourage employees to take time off as needed and seek health professionals if they notice their demeanor has changed.

There is no hard-and-fast way to reduce employee fatigue or distraction across the board. Check in regularly with employees and try new solutions to reduce worker distractions and ensure your employees get enough sleep. Even temporary shifts to help employees prioritize their own well-being can have a strong impact on your business's future.

Don't be afraid to search for more team members, either. Overworked employees are more likely to create workplace hazards for the entire team that can ultimately cost more than hiring another team member. Burnt-out employees often aren't able to perform their best work, so expanding your team can enable the entire company to do its best work.

Taking Care of Our Proudly Essential Pros

We all know the work our Proudly Essential Pros do is crucial to our communities, especially during a pandemic. Plumbing and HVAC emergencies can't wait for safer work zones! But we still have a responsibility to provide a safer work zone for our pros, even when times get tough.

At MORSCO, we understand the last year has been full of hard choices. Now more than ever, we're committed to creating jobsite safety by reducing worker fatigue, improving overall well-being, and showing our pros just how much we appreciate them. How can you prioritize worker well-being today?