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Workplace Safety Amid an Above Average 2020 Hurricane Season

June 2, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

hurricane seasonThe upcoming 2020 hurricane season poses unique challenges for businesses and organizations that are already grappling with the current COVID-19 pandemic. As we enter June, experts have forecasted this hurricane season to be significantly more active than usual, with the outlook predicting a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who provides these ranges with a 70% confidence, we’ll likely see a range of 13 to 19 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher. This would include 3 to 6 major hurricanes, which would be category 3, 4, or 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher. We’ve already seen the season’s first storm, Arthur, which came and went – brushing up against North Carolina before heading back out into the Atlantic, as per Grist.

“NOAA’s analysis of current and seasonal atmospheric conditions reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year,” Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, said in a statement.


Workplace Safety and Hurricane Season

Businesses and organizations across the United States are already under extreme pressure as they deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With the 2020 hurricane season now upon us, it’s more important than ever to make sure businesses are ready to react if and when a hurricane makes landfall.

In our recent 2020 Workplace Safety Survey, in which we interviewed over 585 full-time employees across the country working in various verticals including healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail, and other professional services, we found several blind spots relating to workplace safety and communication. These blind spots could be detrimental to a company if left unaddressed, especially in the midst of today’s climate with an above average hurricane season brewing and a global pandemic.

Related Blog: The New Reality of Employee Critical Communication

There's a disconnection between employers and employees:

When we conducted our third annual Workplace Safety Survey, we found that 63% of respondents claimed that email was their primary source of emergency communications, but many noted their preferred communication methods were text messages and intercoms. As employers are the ones to make decisions on how to communicate with employees, there is unfortunately a clear disconnect between what is being done and what is preferred by employees.

During hurricane season, it’s key to communicate quickly and efficiently with workers to ensure their safety. By using a mass notification solution that has multiple methods of communication, such as email, text, phone call, intercom, and more, employers can get important information out to employees without worrying whether they will receive them in a timely fashion. Investing in a multi-channel communication solution also allows employers to reach employees out of work hours, which could be extremely helpful during hurricane season as these severe storms aren’t known to stick to a 9 – 5 schedule.

Employees are unaware of workplace safety plans:

Another shocking find after conducting our Workplace Safety Survey was that 40% of employees responded that they had never practiced workplace safety drills, although 76% of employers claimed to have an emergency plan in place for severe weather. It’s great to know there are plans in place for many companies we surveyed, but it’s even more important to share these plans with employees and practice them.

By practicing different emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plans, such as a response to a hurricane, employers can find better ways to streamline operations, add additional communication features, and continuously improve upon the plan. If a hurricane were to make landfall in the area of your organization, it's important that employees know exactly what to do to ensure the safety of themselves and others. Employees can't be unaware of safety plans during a disaster, as this could result in confusion and panic, which could then be extremely dangerous. 

Related Blog: Employee Wellness and Workplace Safety Have Strong ROI

Steps Taken by a Manufacturing Company

Plastics manufacturer, Inteplast Group, was caught directly in Hurricane Harvey’s path back in 2017. Although this storm hit hard, it was not the first time the company had encountered a natural disaster, so they were ready. Employees were aware of the plans in place and knew exactly what had to be done during a hurricane.

“Once we have a storm warning in effect, we start thinking about what needs to be done. It’s second nature for us now," said Peter Zamarripa, general plant manager to EHS Today.

Once they had received the storm warning, employees jumped into action to secure equipment and maintain plant safety. Here’s what they did before Hurricane Harvey made landfall:

  • Have plastic tarps, tape, and rope on hand to cover the equipment.
  • Cover windows.
  • Have flashlights and batteries.
  • Have diesel for generators.
  • Secure all loose equipment and materials that are outside on site.
  • Back up all digital files.
  • Make sure silos are full.
  • Have enough product resources on hand in case there is a shortage or delivery issues post-hurricane.

During the recovery period, communication for this company was key. Inteplast Group found after the hurricane communicating via phone, text, and email was more difficult. Luckily, they were prepared for this and utilized their radio systems and intercoms helped get word out to employees who were working to get the plant back up and running. Finding an effective communication system that integrates within existing systems, such as an intercom or digital signage system, can be extremely useful for a company looking to reach everybody quickly after an emergency.

Related Blog: Researchers Predict an Above Normal 2020 Hurricane Season

OSHA explains each employer is responsible for the safety and health of its workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace for its workers. By creating, implementing, and practicing a hurricane emergency response plan, companies can protect their workers and support them with an effective emergency communications system.

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The ROI of Investing in Workplace Safety in Construction and Manufacturing

May 26, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

workplace safety constructionIt is often reported that companies who invest in workplace safety see a return of $2 or more for every dollar invested. However, in the construction and manufacturing industries, the return on investment can be significantly higher due to the higher incidence of workplace injuries and resulting costs.

In 2018, more than 25% of all workplace fatalities and nearly 18% of all non-fatal workplace accidents reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics occurred in the construction and manufacturing industries, despite the number of people employed in these two industries accounting for less than 12% of the workforce. Not only was the incidence rate for workplace accidents higher than the national average, the nature of the accidents resulted in more days away from work than the national average.

Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018



Non-Fatal Injuries


164 million



Construction & Manufacturing

19 million








However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' figures may not tell the whole story. In 2013, the National Safety Council published a guide for executives on the business case for investing in safety in which it is claimed occupational illnesses are underrepresented in the data. While there is no evidence to support the claim, it is certainly true employees in construction and manufacturing are exposed to materials and environments that can have an impact on their long term health.

Related Blog: The Top Health and Safety Apps Your Construction Employees Need  on Their Smartphones

The Direct Cost of Workplace Injuries

Although it is not possible to put a price on the personal loss to injured employees and their families, the National Safety Council has calculated the direct cost per worker of workplace injuries to companies. The organization's figure of $1,100 per year per employee does not relate to the average cost of a workplace injury, but rather the value of goods or services each employee must produce in order to offset the cost of workplace injuries each year.

The organization's calculation includes wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employers' uninsured costs, damage to motor vehicles, and fire losses. Naturally, in industries with higher fatality and injury rates where each injury results in a longer period away from work, the direct cost per worker is going to be significantly higher - especially if you factor in the organization's claimed additional absences due to occupational illnesses.

The Indirect Cost of Workplace Injuries

In many cases there can be an indirect cost of workplace injuries. For example, if an injury occurs due to a breach of health and safety regulations, the company may have to pay compensation to the injured employee and be liable for fines. Certainly there will be an abrupt loss of skilled labor - which could result in further recruitment and training costs - and, in the event of a workplace fatality, it is often the case the employee's colleagues might not be able to work for some time.

Related Blog: How to Successfully Implement a Culture of Accountability to  Address Safety Concerns in the Manufacturing Industry

In addition, the negative publicity from a workplace accident can cause harm that damages a company’s reputation. There may be a loss of confidence from investors, suppliers, and employees, all of which may impact the company's ability to succeed in competitive markets. Furthermore, a study by Goldman Sachs revealed that companies adequately managing workplace health and safety performed better financially than those that did not.

The Ratio between Direct and Indirect Costs

In the National Safety Council's business case for investing in safety, the organization quotes a 2011 study which calculated indirect costs outweigh direct costs by 2.73-to-1. The guide gives an example of a back injury having a direct cost of $25,000 and an indirect cost of $68,250 - bringing the total cost of the injury to $93,250. However, in the construction and manufacturing industries the ratio between direct and indirect costs can be much greater.

In 1982, Stanford University conducted a study into the economic cost of accidents in the construction industry. Researchers analyzed forty-nine accidents and found the ratio between direct and indirect costs varied from 4-to-1 to 17-to-1 depending on the nature of the accident. Although the research is nearly forty years old, many of the factors analyzed still apply. Consequently an injury with $25,000 in direct costs could cost a construction or manufacturing company as much as $450,000.

The ROI of Workplace Safety Investments

The “statistic” that companies who invest in workplace safety see a return of $2 or more for every dollar invested originates from a survey of Chief Financial Officers conducted by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in 2005. However it is difficult to calculate the actual ROI of workplace safety investments because, if the investment prevents an injury from being sustained, you have no direct or indirect costs to measure. So, how can you calculate if an investment in workplace safety is worthwhile?

Related Blog: Employee Wellness and Workplace Safety Have Strong ROI

Possibly the only way to determine if an investment in workplace safety is worthwhile is to make the investment, calculate the direct and indirect costs of the injury the investment is intended to prevent,  and then compare the previous year's injury statistics with the current year. A decrease in workplace accidents may not be directly attributable to the investment, but often it is the case that just because a safety measure is apparent, employees tend to act more carefully.

It is also worth remembering that some safety measures mitigate the consequences of accidents rather than prevent them. For example effective emergency notification systems can accelerate the arrival of first responders and emergency services personnel in events such as an active assailant or heart attack in which minutes can be crucial in determining the severity of the outcome. For more information about the ROI of effective emergency notification systems, do not hesitate to get in touch.

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The New Reality of Employee Critical Communication: Webinar Recap

May 19, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

Employee Critical Communication Webinar CoverAs businesses and workplaces begin planning to reopen offices and stores following the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety remains top of mind. To reopen, critical communication between companies and their employees will be extremely important. After analyzing the results of our recent 2020 Workplace Safety Survey, we found several blind spots related to both workplace safety and communication that could be detrimental to a business if left unaddressed. In our informational webinar last week, we discussed how to overcome communication challenges while preparing for the unique obstacles to come in a post-COVID world.

The webinar was presented by Ravers Carolyn Berk, Content Marketing Specialist, and Kevin Hatline, Customer Success Manager, and they ran through the new reality of employee critical communication. Berk kicked off the webinar discussing the era of a ‘new normal’, with many companies and organizations across the United States working remotely, and then delved into the findings from the 2020 Workplace Safety Survey.

Related Blog: The Key Elements to “Back-to-Work” Planning for Your Organization

2020 Workplace Safety Survey

Earlier this year Rave Mobile Safety conducted a comprehensive Workplace Safety Survey interviewing over 585 full-time employees across the United States. Respondents worked in various verticals including healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail, and other professional services. Although the survey was conducted before the pandemic, there were 4 telling responses businesses can learn from.

  1. Disconnection Between Employer and Employees
    63% of surveyed employees said that email was their primary source of emergency communication. Although email is what their companies used most, respondents noted that their most preferred communication methods were mass text messages (38%) and intercoms (35%). This shows there is a disconnection between employers and employees, as employers typically make the decision on how they will notify and communicate with employees without considering how an employee’s day is laid out. Workers may not be checking emails right away when an urgent emergency communication is sent out.

  2. Some Employees are Unaware of Safety Plans
    With an above average hurricane season predicted, and other looming workplace safety risks, having clear and concise safety plans in place is key. 48% of respondents said they experienced severe weather in the last year and 76% of employers said they have an emergency plan for severe weather. With that being said, 40% of employees responded claiming they have never practiced response with workplace safety drills. Having the plans in place is important but sharing these plans and practicing with employees so that they know what to do in the case of an emergency could end up saving lives.

Uncertainty is the Only Guarantee


It's safe to assume that things won’t suddenly or immediately go back to normal. Companies will likely have to adjust for factors such as:

  • Immunodeficient employees who can’t risk exposure
  • Ensuring sick employees avoid the workplace
  • Maintaining adequate staffing when employees are out sick
  • Adjusting shifts to improve social distancing

During the webinar we polled individuals on the following question:

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, was your workplace prepared to respond? 


  1. We already had a plan in place that helped guide our response.
  2. We made a plan after COVID-19 hit.
  3. We are currently developing a plan.
  4. We don’t have a plan yet, but we intend to develop one.
  5. We have not addressed pandemics and don’t plan to.

57% of respondents selected option A – We already had a plan in place that helped guide out response, and 43% of respondents selected option B – We made a plan after COVID-19 hit.

  1. Emergency Communication Falling Apart
    Our 2020 Workplace Safety Survey found that 43% of respondents said their workplaces use an intercom for critical communication, such as for an active shooter threat. Unfortunately, now this channel is insufficient with many employees now working remotely at home.

  2. Lone of Remote Workers Left in the Dark
    72% of surveyed workers who spend more than 25% of their work hours outside of the workplace said that they are not required to do safety check-ins with employers, and unfortunately, 13% of respondents claimed they feel unsafe while working. Employers are responsible for remote workers and traveling workers even though they are not physically in the office. Checking in with employees may make them feel more valued and less unsafe on the job.

Related Blog: Employee Wellness and Workplace Safety Have Strong ROI

Overcoming Existing Communication Challenges

Berk concluded her findings from the 2020 Workplace Safety Survey and turned the mic over to Kevin Hatline to discuss some solutions to overcome communication challenges within the workplace. As a remote worker himself, he’s used to not being in an office environment and can bring his expertise to those experiencing challenges when working from home.

Technology Can Help

Technology can absolutely be a help in overcoming communication challenges, but it is important to choose a solution that has a simple interface and is easy to use. Having an easy-to-use technology is helpful as people and employees can remember the software better. Solutions that are over complicated could be more of a hassle and essentially become a barrier. Users will also spend less time training as a simple interface will make it easy on all employees.

Bridge the Critical Communication Gap 

It’s important to think about an employees’ work environment and average day, and make sure to include a type of notification that works for them. By providing several options, employees can choose which would resonate best for the type of work they are doing. For example, if a worker is away from their computer for extended times throughout the day, email wouldn’t be the best type of notification. 

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

Keep Resources Within Reach

It’s important to keep resources, such as a company safety plan, clear and easily accessible. Conducting safety drills is also essential. When employees actually act out what they should do, instead of just reading or hearing about it, then they’ll remember and be more prepared to react in an actual emergency.

Embrace Multi-Channel Communication

Gone are the days of just email communications. Investing in multiple communication channels accounts for all types of work environments can be very useful for a business. This could mean reaching employees via text notifications, phone calls, emails, digital signage, and more. Having multiple communication channels also allows employers to reach employees outside of work hours, if necessary.

Accessibility is Everything

It’s important to keep up on employee health, regardless to if they’re working remotely or coming into the workplace. An increase of remote workers proves that employees need to be there, even if they’re not physically present.

During the webinar we polled individuals on the following question:

What is the biggest post-coronavirus concern?

  1. Maintaining continuity and productivity
  2. Ensuring sick employees do not expose the workplace
  3. Modifying the workplace for better social distancing
  4. Improving employee communication
  5. All of the above

40% of respondents selected option ‘B’ – Ensuring sick employees do not expose the workplace, 40% of respondents selected option ‘E’ – All of the above, and 13% of respondents selected option ‘C’ – Modifying the workplace for better social distancing.

Tips to Prepare for this New Reality

As we all adjust to this new reality, it’s important to keep the good news in mind. Employees across the country have likely already made adjustments, prepping them for new, post-COVID procedures.

When we get back into our offices, it’s likely you'll could see others such as deliveries, contactors, patients, guests, and anyone else who may be visiting the workplace during the day. When there are more people, there is more exposure. It’s important for a company to make sure it’s able to communicate procedures with those who aren’t in the immediate workforce.

Related Blog: Managing Office Density For A Returning Workforce

Businesses should also look into safety solutions that can be incorporated into existing investments. If a company has digital signage or PA systems, for example, looking for a solution that can integrate within those systems can be extremely useful. Depending on the capabilities of a solution, they can be used for day-to-day communication needs.

A flexible safety solution is necessary so that a business has the tools on hand to help regardless of what surprises lay ahead. You can use a solution, such as a critical communications platform, to address existing safety issues, like incorporating this solution into a plan for reacting to an active assailant or severe weather event.

The New Reality of Employee Critical Communication Webinar Recording

Managing Office Density For A Returning Workforce

May 12, 2020 Blog Author: Mary Kate McGrath

Ia return to office - office densityn April, regions of the United States began to reopen their economies in a marginal return to public life, following weeks of lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most companies are beginning to plan for workers returning to a physical office space, a move that will require large and small changes to both the design and workplace culture of the contemporary office. Businesses are exploring a variety of strategies, from reevaluating floor plans to staggering employee arrival times. No matter what the plan for reducing coronavirus risk for returning workers, managing office density must be a top priority, as this will be the single greatest factor in reducing potential for transmission. 

Experts agree that the coronavirus can spread easily within a crowded workspace. The Center Disease Control and Prevention shared a study conducted in South Korea on a cluster of COVID-19 cases in a call center located in a commercial-residential building in the capital city of Seoul. On one floor of the call center with 216 employees working, 94 people contracted coronavirus. Investigators determined that the outbreak occurred over 16 days beginning on February 21, and over 90% of the cases were concentrated in a densely populated section of the office, according to National Geographic. 

Donald Milton, an expert of airborne disease transmission at the University of Maryland, told the publication that reducing office density will be an effective strategy for reducing risk. “You could space people out, and if you’re doing that in combination with a reasonable amount of ventilation and sanitation, you should be able to have a reasonably safe space,” he said.


Milton also noted that physical barriers, such as a cubicle, could prevent transmission from a cough, but noted other surfaces, such as an office coffee pot or door handles, and shared community spaces like elevators, pose other risks. Office administrators can take active steps to reduce foot traffic in the office, reducing contact in the communal spaces people move through, like hallways or stairwells. 

How To Manage Office Density 

Business leaders looking to determine the best way to reopen an office should make an effort to poll workers on their comfort level about returning to the workspace. Each worker will have unique needs regarding a return to work - some might have underlying health concerns that increase risk, or be caring for a vulnerable loved one. School and childcare closures might require parents to be home with children until operations resume. A mass notification system can be used to distribute a “return-to-work” survey, allowing administrators to get a better understanding of how many people plan to continue remote-working, and those whose role depends on a return to the office, or who might prefer to be in an office environment. 

Employees will appreciate having input in the “return to office” plan, but polling workers can also aid strategies to reduce office density. Businesses are considering staggering arrival times, redirecting office foot traffic, and creating staging areas near elevators to reduce density. Efforts to reduce face-to-face interaction in the office can be aided by allowing high-risk individuals or those who prefer a home office to have the flexibility to continue remote working for the duration.

Related Blog: The Key Elements to “Back-to-Work” Planning for Your Organization

Employees who serve critical office roles, or others who feel a strong preference for their in-office space, can opt to return once an office has reorganized to follow social-distancing protocol. Mass notification can also help administrators implement this staggered approach to a returning workforce, keeping employees informed of any change to protocol, such as “shifts” for coming in or changes to office floor plans. 

Can "Open-Office" Spaces Do Business As Usual? 

Floorplan updates are another critical aspect of managing office density. Following the last financial recession, companies have had to “do more with less space,” which meant packing people into open office spaces in a process called “densification,” according to Vox. Densification will need to be undone to accomodate for social distancing - private spaces or personal offices will increase, there should be more distance between desks, a conference room that typically seats 10 might be reconfigured for a five-person maximum, as per Vox. 

Open-floor office plans are more susceptible to viral transmission, especially for employees sitting side-by-side at a communal desk, or in large spaces used for congregation. Barriers, such as the phased-out cubicle, will likely be required to manage office density, along with a “sneeze-guards”, according to the New York Times. Tall plastic barriers, which have become common-place at grocery stores or banks, have long been used in the offices for epidemiology and infectious disease prevention centers. The installation of such shields, along with required distribution of masks or hand-sanitizer, will likely become common procedure as workplaces consider bringing employees back to the office. 

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

Office Shifts For Density Reduction

Companies must increase cleaning rotations and can implement agressive disinfectant strategies, such as using UV light to kill germs in meeting rooms, which has become common practice in hospitals, if possible. Other updates, such as installing air filters and investing in more touch-free technology, such as automatic doors or sinks, can also help reduce risk of infection, as per National Geographic. Each surface - from coffeemakers door handles - will require regular cleaning and disinfectant.

For office managers looking to prevent the spread of germs, however, the most effective strategy will be to limit the number of workers in office at a given time. Instead of bringing back the whole company on the same day, it might make more sense to bring back needs one team at a time to drastically reduce congestion in the office. 

A comprehensive critical communications platform can facilitate a return to company headquarters, from distributing polls on employee work-from-home success to managing arrival times for a “scattered” work day. Communicate with workers ahead of their arrival to highlight key changes to office “flow” or sanitation procedures ahead of their arrival. Administrators can also deliver push notifications directly to a targeted group at a certain location, allowing for more targeted coordination of office density reduction efforts. 

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The Key Elements to “Back-to-Work” Planning for Your Organization

May 7, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

back to work planningBusinesses across the globe have shifted from remote work planning to back-to-work planning. There are several key elements needed for successful back-to-work planning for your organization and they will mainly focus on providing a safe and healthy environment by gathering critical information from employees and sharing it across the enterprise.

The biggest fear most businesses and really communities across the United States have is opening too soon. The reality is that the unpredictability of coronavirus is too big to ignore. History shows us that a second wave of COVID-19 is very likely to happen as did with the Spanish flu in 1918. HR managers and health and safety leaders are left with more questions than answers.

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

The Key Elements to “Back to Work” Planning

Returning to work will almost certainly happen in waves, driven by consumer demand and employer desperation, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“For some things demand will snap back immediately,” said Gordon. “Those jobs — dentists, health care, barber shops — there’s a backlog of demand. Then there’s a similar category, like restaurants and bars, where people may be cooped up for so long that they’re desperate to go out to eat or get a drink. For other industries, the same urgency may not exist.”

Reopening Starts By Understanding Employee Wellbeing

While we don’t know all the answers or how to reopen offices the “right” way just yet, there are a few elements we do know that will be critical for back-to-work planning and they all center on ensuring your employees’ wellbeing.

When you think about it from an HR perspective, employee wellbeing as it relates to COVID-19 back-to-work planning covers:

  1. Gauging your employees’ concerns including returning back to work or remaining remote, if applicable

  2. Being transparent by maintaining consistent communication

  3. Providing safeguards for the evolving workplace environment

  4. Giving employees a way to provide feedback

  5. Checking in on employees as the situation progresses

Learn How Greater Employee Engagement Is Possible

Back-to-Work Planning Checklist

Here are a few things to consider as you begin your back-to-work planning.

Phase One: 1-2 Months Before Opening Back Offices for Employees

As you decide on when to officially open buildings back up for workers to return, there are few things to keep in mind as part of your Phase One checklist.

  1. Start with your employees. Consider sending out an employee survey to get a feel for how your employees feel about returning to work. Here’s a free return-to-work survey template to use. Their responses might give you better insight into how and when you should reopen.

  2. Prepare the physical workplace to be welcoming, but safe. Wayfinding will be essential for offices with returning employees and should be welcoming and simple to follow. We’ve already experienced some of this in supermarkets and other indoor facilities where social distancing isn’t possible.

    Keep in mind that it might be overwhelming for employees to return to their workplace in the new normal. Not being able to go their usual route to the kitchen area might not seem like much but could cause some confusion and frustration. Make sure you communicate these new routes before they arrive to the office.

  3. Revise employee handbooks with a coronavirus return-to-work policy. This could vary depending on your industry. For example, food manufacturers have remained mostly opened throughout the coronavirus pandemic but have had to continuously evolve their policies as workers or their immediate family members have contracted COVID-19.

    To combat the dangerous reality many frontline workers are facing, Tyson Foods encouraged their employees to stay home if they were feeling sick and even increased bonuses to all employees putting their lives on the line every day. But more importantly, Tyson believes that:

    “… information is the best tool for fighting the virus and so, we’re working to keep our team members informed and are also encouraging them to tell us what they’re experiencing, so we support them in the best possible way.”

  4. Order any supplies needed for on-premise activities. With shortages of common office health and safety supplies such as hand sanitizer still an issue, it might be a challenge getting orders fulfilled and delivered before reopening your doors. If you have multiple offices or locations, make sure you can coordinate with others easily and even take an inventory poll on the current availability of supplies.

  5. Think of all possible workplace safety scenarios. You might have conducted drills or revised plans prior to COVID but there are new situations to think of. Face coverings might make it difficult to easily identify employees entering the building. And unfortunately, even the unthinkable could happen like a disgruntled former employee.

    Workplace violence was very much a concern pre-COVID. Medical emergencies might also need to be treated differently. If someone collapses, you might have to quickly isolate them in the event that it could be COVID-related and quickly coordinate with the appropriate internal staff without alarming the rest of the employees.

  6. Communicate new policies, schedules or other critical details in as many ways possible. If you plan on conducting temperature checks on employees before entering the work environment, make sure to communicate in your return-to-work communications. While in-person updates or team meetings might have been effective to relay important company information prior to COVID-19, employee communication methods might have changed.

    In fact, in a recent survey on workplace safety and preparedness, mass text messages were the most preferred mode of communication for both on-site, off-site and remote workers. Having a system that can allow you to distribute the same message through various channels, in different languages and even store these documents, along with a directory to important company resources in a mobile-friendly way, will also be beneficial.

Phase Two: After Opening, Monitor Employee Health and Productivity

Once employees have started to make their way back to work, it’ll be important to continue to monitor the health and wellbeing of your employees, communicate updates, collect data and receive feedback, especially as COVID-19 is expected to re-emerge. Depending on your industry and the roles your employees play, you’ll need to plan for different levels of infection risk.

According to page 7 of OSHA’s “GUIDANCE ON PREPARING WORKPLACES FOR COVID-19”, employee risk can be reduced by doing the following:  

  • Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan

  • Prepare to implement basic infection prevention measures

  • Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people, if appropriate

  • Implement workplace controls

  • Follow existing OSHA standards

Your Phase Two return-to-work checklist should include:

  • Evaluate when to ease restrictions. Depending on how recovery looks like in your individual region, you might be able to ease restrictions for your workplace. This might mean removing wayfinding or allowing more employees in the office at the same time. This might also mean allowing more travel, which means employees will need to have access to updates on the go. Make sure you communicate this information to employees in various ways.

  • Segment communications to different employees. Make sure you can separate lists for employees entering work in different phases as your communications to each group will likely vary.

  • Allow temporary visitors or staff to opt into receiving communications. Set up a temporary SMS keyword that any visitors can submit their mobile number to receive important updates.

  • Provide an anonymous tip line for violations. Give employees a mobile-friendly resource to report return-to-work protocol violations privately and anonymously.

  • Plan for staffing needs for employees who must stay home. If you’re in certain industries such as manufacturing or construction, getting shift coverage for certain tasks is essential. In some cases, employees might have to stay home, whether they or a family member have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. Make sure you can reach out to available and healthy employees who can fill their shift.

  • Check in on remote employees. If your employees happen to get sick or must remain remote to help care for family members, you can continue conducting wellness checks and capture this data easily for better insight on strategic planning.

Phase Three: After a Few Months of Recovery, Continue to Focus on Communication

As this last phase of recovery continues to evolve, communication will continue to play a main role. Prior to coronavirus hitting, many businesses were focused on improving employee communication for both in-office and remote or traveling employees. This should still be the case as we get closer to the new normal.

A few things to add to your Phase 3 checklist include:

  • Clean up your distribution lists. It’s likely that temporary employees might change, so you’ll have to make sure your distribution lists are up to date. Luckily, there are some systems that can automatically conduct freshness checks and provide data synchronization across your systems.

  • Keep a positive culture going. Collaboration tools such as Zoom and Slack have also played a pivotal role during coronavirus and in some cases, might have even brought your employees closer together. Continue any Slack channels you might have started to communicate with a mostly remote workforce. Share safety quotes or other positive stories to keep the momentum going.

  • Reevaluate your communication process. Many businesses realized from the onset of the coronavirus that they weren’t ready to be fully remote and that email wasn’t going to be enough. And when you compare the different ways to communicate to employees, it’s clear that one channel isn’t enough. Don’t let that same mistake happen again as there will be other more common events such as severe weather that might present the same communication challenges.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

How can you provide an open line of communication for returning workers?

As there is more unknown than know in today’s current climate, it’s important to keep your employees informed. Organizations can maximize their employee safety and minimize operational disruption by actively sharing pertinent company news and collecting accurate feedback and information from workers by using a comprehensive mass notification solution. Employers can use the information gathered from employees to determine whether they feel safe returning to the office. Employers can also share their back-to-work plans with workers so that they are kept in the loop and have an idea of when they'll be returning to work. Communication is key.

Universal - Coronavirus Response Solution Corporate Prod Sheet

Crisis Preparedness and Planning: Getting Your Organization on Board Webinar Recap

May 5, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

Crisis Prevention & Preparedness WebinarAs everybody adjusts to the “new normal” of stay-at-home orders, remote work, and social distancing, businesses and organizations have been running through their business continuity and crisis plans after being hit economically and operationally by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks ago, we hosted an informational webinar with Clint Emerson, a retired Navy SEAL, New York Times Best Selling Author, emergency preparedness professional, and owner of Escaping the Wolf. Emerson covered how to prepare employees for an event and manage the aftereffects, the three simple steps to crisis management, and the five pillars to successful program development.

“Keep it simple; crisis will complicate the rest."

When creating a crisis management policy or directive, it should be both written and kept simple to ensure everybody who reads it can understand it. The policy then becomes the anchor that is attached to emergency communication plans, training plans, training drills, education, and more. Businesses should always be testing this policy so that it can continually be updated and improved upon.


“Proper planning prevents poor performance.” 

Having a comprehensive crisis management plan in place is crucial. Emerson explains that if you have no plan in place, you are leading yourself to failure. When creating a crisis management plan, you must allow for flexibility and plan for the events you hope will never impact your business, such as a global pandemic. An organization should also include all important stakeholders and decision makers from each department to provide their individual inputs and work together on creating a plan.

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

The communication aspect of a crisis management plan is extremely important. Having technology, such as a mass notification platform, on your side to push notifications and messaging out to an entire company, or segmented lists of specific departments, will allow you to communicate effectively to everybody involved. 


“Complacency kills.” 

Being satisfied with a crisis management plan or policy is not good. Over time business leaders may become complacent as they believe their plan needs no changes and are not making efforts to update and adjust the plan. Businesses should always be looking for ways to improve upon their crisis management plan, whether it’s finding better ways to streamline it, adding additional communication features, or practicing the plan repeatedly to find holes that should be addressed.


The Five Pillars to Program Development

The big five pillars to any program are the following, explained Emerson:

  1. Policy
    The policy is the backbone. You must have some kind of doctrine in place. When developing a policy, usually businesses will see shortfalls and gaps that must be filled.
  2. Communication
    A communication plan is essential. Emerson describes breaking out a communication plan like a wedding cake. The majority of the workforce would be the bottom layer of the cake, the middle layer would be the management teams and company directors, and the top of the cake is the C-Suite. Each layer should have a streamlined communication plan and relying on technology, such as a critical communications platform, can be a simple yet huge help during a crisis situation.
  3. Training
    Effective training plans are extremely important. Emerson explains that it’s key to keep adult learning criteria in mind when creating training materials, as typically employees will have difficulty learning training plans that are over 8 minutes. Keeping training plans and videos under 8 minutes is ideal.
    The speed in which training material is read within a training video is also something to keep in mind. The slower the reader is, the more likely an employee will listen to what the speaker is trying to say. A Harvard study proved that when the cadence is slowed down, the listener will hang on to every word.
    Without implementing adult learning criteria, employees may not be properly trained as they weren’t absorbing the information, which could be detrimental during a crisis.
  4. Collection
    The investigation after an incident, the surveys conducted within the workforce, and the data needed to lead into the next pillar, reporting, are all a part of the collection pillar.
  5. Reporting
    When reporting, business leaders can take the data collected to then analyze it to find shortfalls to then feed back into the policy.

3 Simple Steps to Crisis Management 

When you build a crisis management program it’s important to include the below 3 simple steps:

  1. Preparedness
    Being prepared will make a huge difference on how exactly a crisis, such as a pandemic or active assailant, will impact you. Your workforce knowing exactly before something bad happens during a crisis is key to preparedness.
  2. Mitigation
    Currently during today’s pandemic we’re in the mitigation phase. We have identified what the problem is, which is the virus, and what to do to make sure it doesn’t spread.
  3. Recovery or Reintegration
    In the case of the current pandemic, recovery may be considered reintegration. This phase is when company leaders are determining the best way to reintegrate safely following the coronavirus, and what next steps need to be taken.

If you missed this webinar and would like to watch it, you can download the recording below!

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Surge Planning for Hospitals during the Coronavirus Pandemic

May 5, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

HospitalWhile it may seem too late to think about surge planning for the coronavirus pandemic, events over the next few weeks are likely to place even greater strain on healthcare systems. Therefore it makes sense for hospitals to plan how they are best going to organize workforces and communicate with other agencies.

The coronavirus pandemic has already claimed thousands of lives and hospitalized many thousands more, yet according to medical experts “the situation is going to get worse before it gets better”. This implies hospitals will see a further increase in demand for services and will need to increase capacity, and ensure adequate medical supplies and staff are available.

However, whereas it is possible to increase capacity within days, and efforts are being made to eliminate medical supply shortages, ensuring adequate staff are available is a problem. One of the most shocking consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the number of healthcare professionals who have been infected while caring for patients and who are now unable to work.

Related Blog: Medical Students Are Graduating Early to Help With Coronavirus

How Healthcare Systems are Preparing for Staff Shortages

Some healthcare systems are preparing for a shortage of healthcare professionals by reassigning other staff and recruiting volunteers. This in itself creates a communications challenge as HR managers will have a larger workforce to organize at a time when the availability of individuals cannot be guaranteed due to either contracting the virus or being in self-quarantine.

Furthermore, it is not only nursing staff that HR managers will have to organize. Maintenance crews, cleaning staff, and porters are equally susceptible to infection, and many more are being employed by healthcare systems as large scale temporary facilities are constructed in order to cope with the growing influx of patients. Many of these employees will also need guidance navigating unfamiliar workplaces.

Related Blog: Managing Hospital Safety Amidst the Coronavirus Outbreak

Effective Communications Will be Essential

As emergency preparedness plans are activated, and healthcare activities revised to cope with the unique nature of the virus, effective communications will be essential - not only with new and existing staff, but also with other hospitals (for patient transfers, the redistribution of equipment, reallocation of healthcare specialists, etc.), and state and local agencies.

Possibly one of the most challenging areas of effective communication will be in ensuring shifts are filled when infected staff are unavailable at short notice. With the likelihood being they will be unable to work for a minimum of fourteen days, it is not the case of finding a replacement member of staff for one shift, it may be as many as ten shifts per employee that require filling.

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

Addressing the Communications Challenge

One of the most efficient ways to address the communications challenge is with a mass notification system that has SMS opt-in, database segmentation, and geo-polling capabilities. The purposes of each of these capabilities are:

  • SMS opt-in enables volunteers to opt into the system in order to receive messages about where and when their services are required.
  • Database segmentation facilitates targeted communication with groups of staff according to their roles, location, or other attribute.
  • Geo-polling is a fast way to solicit staff availability to fill vacant shifts. It is also suitable for checking on the wellbeing of healthcare professionals working in the community.

The system should also have two-way communication capabilities so employees and volunteers can contact HR managers when they are unavailable to work, and so recovering or self-quarantining healthcare professionals can keep shift planners up-to-date on when they expect to return to work. This capability would also be an advantage for new employees and volunteers unfamiliar with the workplace.

With regards to communicating with other hospitals and agencies, contact details could be added to the system so that if - for example - the hospital was running out of clean bedding, it could send a notification to the “other hospitals” group requesting help. When using the geo-poll facility, the notification would automatically close once enough positive answers had been received.

You can find out more about implementing a mass notification system with these capabilities by contacting our team of communications experts and requesting a demo. The demo will enable you to witness the system's ease-of-use, simple administration, and effective communication capabilities that can help your hospital be better prepared for a surge during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Latest on Workplace Violence Statistics

April 28, 2020 Blog Author: Andrea Lebron

Workplace Violence StatisticsUpdated 4/28/2020—The latest on workplace violence statistics 2020 is that many businesses continue to under-report non-fatal injuries and illnesses. This under-reporting creates a misleading picture of violence in the workplace and - due to not acknowledging the issue - results in businesses failing to adequately protect employees.

In this blog, we'll cover:

In the 2015 edition of “Injury Facts”, the National Safety Council raised concerns that non-fatal injuries and illnesses were being under-reported. The organization cited several Californian investigations that found discrepancies of up to 48% between the number of injuries reported and the number of worker's compensation claims, and a study in Washington State that found 90% of organizations surveyed were not complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reporting regulations.

Three years later, the Office of the Inspector General noted that one of the top management and performance challenges facing the U.S. Department of Labor was how the department could best use its resources to help protect workers' safety and health, but the challenge was exacerbated by the underreporting of injuries by employers. Without this information, the Office said, the department was unable to focus inspection and compliance efforts on the most hazardous workplaces.

OSHA has also raised concerns with regard to the latest workplace violence statistics. On its page dedicated to violence at work, the organization claims “Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year,” but fears “many more cases go unreported”. OSHA's fears may well be justified. The number of reported non-fatal injuries and illnesses has failed to increase in subsequent years, implying that the practice of under-reporting continues to this day.

Why is Violence at Work Under-reported?

When considering statistics on workplace violence, it's important to note the statistics understate the problem because of under-reporting. There are various reasons why violence at work is under-reported. The Washington State study mentioned above concluded businesses fail to report non-fatal injuries and illnesses due to a lack of awareness, a lack of communication, and a lack of incentive. Due to the time it takes to complete Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness (SOII) reports, many businesses use whatever data is available at the time rather than implement an accurate data collection and reporting process.

However, around the same time as the National Safety Council was raising its concerns about under-reporting, Carol Fredrickson - a specialist in workplace conflict resolution - published her “7 Reasons Employees Don't Report Workplace Violence”. The list relates exclusively to employee-on-employee violence, but concludes with a point exceptionally pertinent to the latest workplace violence statistics - many employees and employers do not understand how violence at work is defined.

Below are the latest workplace violence statistics broken down by incident demographics, reasons, financial burdens, and a closer look at active shooter statistics in the workplace.

>>Free Workplace Violence Ebook - Why Improving Emergency Communications Is  Key to Employee Safety

How Violence at Work is Defined

According to the Workplace Violence Research Institute, workplace violence has two definitions. The first, the Institute claims, is one perpetrated by the media in which a disgruntled customer or employee takes a firearm to a place of work and shoots indiscriminately. Although an exaggerated example, this definition may explain why many employees and employers feel violence at work only occurs when an injury is sustained due to a physical attack.

The second definition is one more closely aligned to that provided by OSHA. The Administration's website states: “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.” According to the latest workplace violence statistics released by the National Safety Council, physical assaults in the workplace resulted in 20,790 injuries and 453 fatalities in 2018.

Healthcare SurveyThe Most Dangerous Profession to Work in is Healthcare

In 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a comprehensive review of “Workplace Violence against Health Care Workers in the United States”.  The review included data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing healthcare workers are nearly four times as likely to require time away from work as a result of violence as they are because of other types of injury (the most common being back injuries, needle stick injuries, exposure to blood and body fluid, and smoke inhalation).

The review also reported that, although employees in the healthcare and social assistance sectors account for 12.2% of the working population (and despite there being the potential for under-reporting in other industries), nearly 75% of workplace assaults occurred in a healthcare setting.

Among other recent workplace violence incidents:

  • 80% of Emergency Medical Services personnel have been attacked by patients.
  • Homicide is the second leading cause of workplace death for home healthcare workers.
  • 78% of Emergency Department physicians and 100% of Emergency Department nurses have experienced violence from patients within the last year.
  • The annual incidence of physical assault in a psychiatric setting is 70%.
  • Among nursing homes with dementia units, 59% of nursing aides reported being assaulted by patients weekly and 16% daily.
  • 46% of nurses reported some form of workplace violence during their five most recent shifts.
  • Between 2000 and 2011, there were 154 shootings with injury either inside or on the grounds of American hospitals.

Among workplace shootings 2018-2019, it is worth noting that only four of the hospital shootings were included in the FBI's “Active Shooter Study” published in 2018. This is because the majority took place on hospital grounds, while those that took place inside an Emergency Department or on a ward were the result of the shooter removing a firearm from a security guard or law enforcement officer. This is another example of how the latest workplace violence statistics can create a misleading picture of violence in the workplace.

Free Infographic Download: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Statistics

Measures to Prevent Workplace Violence

There are various measures that can be implemented to prevent workplace violence cases. The first is for employers to understand the OSHA definition of violence at work and implement policies that protect employees from the “threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site”. Should these events occur, the policies must be enforced, sanctions applied, and the incidents included on the SOII reports.

In circumstances where employees are at risk from physical assault, employers should implement mechanisms that can quickly alert security personnel and emergency services to an act of violence. According to our “Trends in Corporate Security Report” approximately 25% of businesses are unprepared for an active shooter incident, meaning the incident is frequently over before police respond and arrive at the scene.

Are Employers Failing to Prioritize Workplace Safety?

In our 2019-2020 Workplace Safety and Preparedness Report, 30% of respondents said they were unaware or unsure of their employers' Emergency Preparedness Plans for the most common types of workplace emergencies. Higher percentages reported that although Emergency Preparedness Plans existed for severe weather events, medical emergencies, and system outages/cyberattacks, the plans were rarely or never tested.

This doesn't necessarily imply employers are failing to prioritize workplace safety. It's more likely their efforts are being focused in the wrong areas due to regulations requiring events such as the periodic testing of fire alarms and fire drill procedures. However, it was particularly noted in the report that more than a third of female respondents were unaware of workplace violence emergency plans, despite workplace violence being the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace.

Workplace Violence Statistics Demographics

Each year, the National Safety Council release an “Injury Facts” report revealing the number of injuries and days lost due to workplace assaults. By analyzing the source data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is possible to identify specific trends in workplace violence statistics - with the caveat that some trends may be attributable to the increased reporting of non-fatal injuries.

Non-Fatal Injuries

Intentional-Non-fatal-Injury-By-person2Non-fatal Injury By Person-Assault-Type

Fatal Injuries

Intentional-Fatal-Injury-By-person2Fatal Injury By Person-Assault-Type

What these bare workplace fatality statistics don't reveal is the unequal distribution by gender. In 2017, homicides accounted for 22% of fatal injury events for women, but only 8% of fatal injury events for men. Of the 441 workplace homicides in 2017, co-workers were responsible for 77 deaths, customers for 51 deaths, and relatives for 28 deaths. The remainder were attributable to outside actors.

Fatal Injury events by gender
A deeper analysis of BLS data reveals:

  • In 2017, employees were absent from work for 39,750 days as a result of 28,870 reported workplace violence events (4.5% of the total number of days lost due to workplace injuries and illnesses).
  • Of these 28,870 reported workplace violence events, 8,640 occurred in nursing and residential care facilities, 6,590 occurred in hospitals, and 2,370 in social assistance settings.
  • Since 1992, the overall workplace injury and illness rate (days away from work per 10,000 employees) has fallen by 70%. During the same period, workplace violence injury rates increased by 5%.

While the increase in workplace violence rates is mostly attributable to the healthcare industry, the rate of days away from work per 10,000 employees has also increased in education (2008 to 2017):

  • By 116% in private schools
  • By 117% in local authority schools
  • By 233% in state managed schools

Most Dangerous States to Work In

Because California, Texas, Florida, and New York have larger working populations than other states, there are naturally more accidents in these states. However, this does not mean they are the most dangerous states to work in. Our analysis of BLS data sorted states by their relative sizes and the number of accidents in each to determine which the ten most dangerous states to work in actually are.

10 Most dangerous states to work in

Other Workplace Violence Takeaways from Around the Web

Types of Workplace Violence_Graphic

The healthcare industry makes up 9% of the U.S. workforce, yet healthcare professionals experience more workplace violence injuries than all other industries combined

Out of all 7 possible causes of death at the workplace, homicides make up 9%

The third leading cause of death for workers in the healthcare and professional services industries (education, law and media) is due to workplace violence

 More on education: 44% of teachers reported being physically attacked while at school within one year

Employees with potential to commit workplace violence tend to exhibit 8 behaviors such as acting out of character or exhibiting addictive habits

 The two most common traits when it comes to those who commit white-collar workplace violence are narcissism and psychopathy

Related Blog: What is Red Collar Crime?

 Workplace Violence Financial Data

$3 or more is saved for each dollar invested in workplace safety

$121 billion annual losses are attributed to workplace assaults

Domestic violence issues that are brought to the workplace cost nearly $727 million in lost productivity

Workplace catastrophes such as violent incidents have caused publicly-traded companies to lose close to 8% in shareholder value

Lawsuits associated with workplace violence cost companies an average of $500,000 for out-of-court settlements

Workplace Shootings, Active Shooters

Out of all mass shootings since 1966, 25% occurred at workplaces

 In 2018, there have been at least 18 mass shootings involving four or more victims, except for the suspectMassShootingsIn2018_v04_DP_hpEmbed_8x5_992

70% of all active shooter incidents are within a commerce/business or educational setting

96% of active shooters are lone males

40% of active shooter assailants commit suicide

Approximately 25% of companies are unprepared for active shooter incidents

In 2014 and 2015, police exchanged gun-fire with the assailant in 14 active shooter incidents

In nearly half of active shooter incidents, police are unable to respond under 10 minutes

-  Active shooters are nearly twice as likely to die if the shooting occurs in a factory or warehouse, compared to commercial settings

 The FBI has found 10 key behaviors in active shooter assailants, including a mental health history and the decision to choose to attack familiar places

 Copycat active shooter events often happen in clusters, with the risk of an active shooter in the workplace at its highest in the two weeks following a similar incident

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Keeping Employees Safe When They Work in the Office Out of Office Hours

April 28, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

employee working out of office hoursEarlier this year, a company executive was fatally stabbed while working at their company’s headquarters on a Sunday afternoon. With future social distancing regulations likely to result in more employees working in the office out of office hours, how is it possible for employers to keep employees safe around the clock?

On Sunday 9th February, a company executive was allegedly stabbed to death at a large headquarters located in New Hampshire. The exact circumstances of the incident remain under seal, but it has been confirmed that the accused has no previous criminal convictions nor a history of mental health illness, and that the alleged murderer and the victim did not know each other.

It has also been confirmed that the accused was working as a security guard at the industrial estate in which the headquarters are situated. This may explain why the victim did not raise an alarm when they encountered the intruder in the company's offices, but also raises concerns about the access the alleged murderer had to the premises and whether additional security technology could have helped. 

Related Blog: Do Stolen Name Badges Pose a Workplace Security Risk?

More Employees Likely to Work in the Office Out of Office Hours

When the current coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders are relaxed, it is likely companies will be required to maintain social distancing measures in the workplace. While it is not known exactly what form these measures will take, companies may have to introduce staggered shift or split shift working hours - along with weekend working - in order to accommodate future workplace regulations.

The consequence of staggered shifts, split shifts, and weekend working is that, for many companies, the pre-coronavirus Monday-to-Friday, 40-hour working week will become a thing of the past. Instead, the “new normal” could see what are currently considered “offices hours” being extended to around-the-clock, seven days a week - or, at the very least, for more hours than they previously were.

This not only has implications for employee management, but also for employee security. With company premises open for more hours each day, there is a greater risk of intruders entering through doors that would normally be locked. Furthermore, there could also be a spike in internal workplace violence due to continuing employee stress and anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Using Mobile Technology to Better Protect Employees from Increased Workplace Threats

There are various way in which companies can address increased workplace threats from both external and internal sources. The options include increasing the size of security teams, installing deterrents such as CCTV, and/or introducing stricter penalties for code of conduct policy violations. While each of these measures can be effective, a more efficient way to address workplace threats is with mobile technology.

Related Blog: How to Integrate Your Mass Notification System into Employee  Safety Training

Mobile technology solutions have multiple capabilities that can support company efforts to keep employees safe when they work in the office out of office hours. Example of these capabilities include:

A Virtual Escort Safety Timer

This capability enables employees working alone in offices and travelling employees to activate a timer on their mobile phones. For employees in offices, the timer could be for (say) every thirty minutes, while a travelling employee might set the timer for when they anticipate arriving at their destination. If the employee fails to deactivate the timer when the time is up, security is automatically alerted.

Emergency Call Button

Depending on how the company wishes to configure its branded app, employees can be connected with internal security or 9-1-1 with two taps of a screen. The app relays the location of the caller and supports two-way text communications; so, even if an employee is unable to speak, internal security and 9-1-1 knows who is calling, why they are calling, and where they are.

Confidential Anonymous Tips

Anonymous tip texting has multiple benefits in the context of workplace safety. Not only can employees alert security to suspicious behaviors anonymously, but also raise concerns about the mental health of colleagues. Although a colleague's mental health might not prove to be a threat to workplace safety, it may have an impact of workplace productivity - and ultimately the company's profitability.

Targeted and Contextualized Notifications

A mobile technology solution can also be used to provide targeted and contextualized notifications in both emergency and non-emergency situations. Employees can opt to receive both short-form (i.e. SMS) notifications and long-form (i.e. email) notifications via the app, which can also be configured to support a library of resources (i.e. company emergency preparedness plans) for reference as required.

Although it is not yet known how work practices will change in a post-coronavirus era, it is fairly inevitable some form of workplace social distancing will be mandatory in order to prevent subsequent waves of infection. Companies can prepare in advance for the impact social distancing regulations will have on workplace security by investing in a mobile technology solution. 

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How to Integrate Your Mass Notification System into Employee Safety Training

April 21, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

employee safety trainingLike most things in business, the successful execution of an emergency preparedness plan depends on the “golden triangle” of people, processes, and technology. However, no matter how well processes are designed, or how good the technology is to support them, if employees do not know how to react, the whole plan fails.

Earlier this year, we published the results of our 2020 Workplace Safety Survey. The survey reveals that, although there have been improvements in workplace emergency planning compared to our previous survey, gaps remain in employee safety awareness. For example, only 76% of respondents knew how to respond to a severe weather alert, while only 80% knew how to react in an active assailant situation.

The lack of respondents' awareness is not necessarily due to employers failing to consider these emergency scenarios, developing processes to respond to them, or having the technology in place to support emergency preparedness planning. It's more likely the case our respondents had not absorbed the content of employee safety policies or forgotten elements of their safety training. 

Related Blog: Advice for Evaluating Safety Communication Solutions for  Businesses

Unfortunately, the lack of awareness can be fatal in emergency situations. If (for example) 20% of employees do not know to react in an active assailant situation, they may also be jeopardizing the lives of the 80% that do know how to react, but who attempt to help their colleagues. Furthermore, a higher percentage of employees will likely forget elements of safety training due to the stress of the situation.

How to Fill Gaps in Employee Safety Awareness

Despite there being many good sources of employee safety training, no training system can overcome the failure of an individual to absorb the content of safety policies or remember elements of safety training - or eliminate the stress of a situation during an emergency. The solution is to implement a mass notification system that alerts employees to emergencies with both short-form and long-form messages.

The benefit of this solution is that employees receive short-form emergency notifications via the most effective method of communication possible - SMS texts - and simultaneously, because of character limits for SMS texts, a long-form email reminds employees of the appropriate processes to follow. Most employees should be able to access both messages from their mobile devices.

For every potential emergency situation, both an SMS text message and an email message can be prepared in advance and saved onto templates. This ensures emergency notifications are clearly written (i.e. not in the middle of a stressful situation) and comply with employee safety policies. Then, when an emergency occurs, a system manager can dispatch the messages with a few clicks of a mouse.

Integrating a Mass Notification System into Employee Safety Training

A further benefit of mass notification systems that simultaneously communicate multi-modal alerts is that they are interactive. Most training experts agree that providing employees with digital tools they are familiar with (in this case, their own mobile devices) increases training retention. Therefore, while dual forms of communications should still be used to remind employees of the processes to follow, it might ultimately be the case long-form emergency alerts are not accessed as frequently over time.

Related Blog: The Benefits of Mobile Emergency Alert Systems for Employees

With mass notification systems, integrating interactive demonstrations of the system into employee safety training also familiarizes employees with other capabilities of the system. For example, some mass notification platforms can support two-way communication and have a geo-polling capability that employers may wish to take advantage of to check on the well-being of groups of employees, or solicit availability for vacant shifts in order to support business continuity and disaster recovery efforts.

Depending on the business's location, the industry in which it operates, or the nature of services it provides, the mass notification system may have additional capabilities such as mobile panic buttons and anonymous tip texting which create more opportunities for interactive training. The business may also wish to integrate the system with an emergency preparedness solution or the Smart911 service - through which employees can register special needs such as mobility issues.

Find Out More about Making Employee Safety Training More Effective

We cannot guarantee that integrating a mass notification solution into employee safety training will make the training 100% effective; but, due to employees engaging with the training and having a source of reference should they fail to absorb all the information, the workplace should become a safer environment in which employees and first responders react faster to emergencies.

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The Benefits of Mobile Emergency Alert Systems for Employees

April 14, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

MOBILE PHONE While federal and state laws stipulate organizations have to implement specific types of emergency alerts systems for employees, these do not necessarily cover every type of emergency nor protect all employees. For these reasons alone, mobile emergency alert systems for employees can be beneficial.

There are several federal regulations relating to emergency alert systems for employees that most organizations will be familiar with - for example NFPA 72 for fire alarm systems and OSHA 1910.38(d) with regards to alert systems for employees. These regulations can vary in their content and application at local level, but generally relate to fires or other emergencies requiring evacuation.

Organizations operating in certain industries also have to comply with industry-specific regulations. For example, healthcare organizations in the Medicare and Medicaid programs have to implement alert systems for employees and patients that fulfil the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (for audible and visual alerts) and the Civil Rights Act (for translating alerts into multiple languages).

Related Blog: 5 Ways You Didn't Know How to Alert Employees in an Emergency

These regulations have been developed with the intention of alerting as many people as possible to an emergency in the least possible time, and in many respects they are effective. However, there are some gaps in the regulations that could expose employees to danger under certain circumstances - not withstanding that employees don't always remember safety training when an alert is activated.

Where Gaps Exist in Emergency Alert Regulations

Firstly, the reason for there being gaps in emergency alert regulations is not the fault of legislators. It would be impossible for legislators to cover every possible scenario (for example, who could have predicted the scale of the current coronavirus emergency), and in many circumstances the onus is on employers to conduct risk assessments to identify threats and then apply the regulations accordingly.

Nonetheless, there are gaps. For example, there are no requirements for emergency alert systems for employees to support two-way communication. Two-way communication can be critical in events where enhanced situational awareness could help resolve an emergency faster, or when incident commanders need to know where to prioritize emergency responses or search and rescue efforts.

Related Blog: How to Tell If Your Business has Grown Out of its Employee  Communication System

Threats to employee safety can also occur when an event is taking place inside a workplace (i.e. an active assailant event) and the internal alert system is incapable of warning employees or visitors not to enter the premises. While there might only be a short window for this threat to exist before the arrival of law enforcement officers, it is still a possibility that has to be considered.

Finally, with regards to employees failing to remember safety training when an alert is activated, this isn't necessarily due to a lack of effective training. When an emergency occurs, the stressful situation can induce panic and lead to a lapse in memory. Emergency alert regulations cannot account for this “gap”, but mobile emergency alert systems for employees can.

What are Mobile Emergency Alert Systems for Employees?

Mobile emergency alert systems for employees consist of a platform through which authorized personnel can send an alert to every employee's mobile device with three clicks of a mouse. Employees are not required to download an app as alerts can be sent via communication channels such as SMS and voice broadcast, while the platform also integrates with national warning services such as IPAWS.

For the sake of speed and ease-of-use, the platforms can be used to activate existing emergency alert systems (i.e. visual displays, fire alarms, etc.); and, as they connect with employee's mobile devices, they naturally support two-way communication. Mobile connectivity also means the systems overcome the potential issue of employees entering a premises when an emergency event is in progress.

Related Blog: How to Tell If Your Business has Grown Out of its Employee  Communication System

A further benefit of multi-modal mobile emergency alert systems for employees is that both short form alerts (i.e. SMS) and long form alerts (i.e. email) can be sent simultaneously. This is best done by preparing policy templates in advance so employees are alerted to an emergency quickly (via SMS) and can access information about how they should respond via email if necessary.

More advanced mobile emergency alert systems for employees also have SMS opt-in capabilities - so visitors, temporary workers, and contractors can be included in the platform's database - and geo-polling capabilities which further enhance situational awareness and which can be used to check on the wellbeing of individuals or groups of individuals during and after an emergency.

Rave Alert Employee Communications

Do Stolen Name Badges Pose a Workplace Security Risk?

April 7, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

work id workplace securityBusinesses and organizations take workplace safety seriously by implementing strict security measures, safety technology, and workplace safety training. Unfortunately, there are unprecedented risks that a company may face. Towards the end of February 2020, Anthony Ferrill, a former electrician at a Milwaukee brewery, entered his old workplace and opened fire killing 5 coworkers and them himself. This Milwaukee workplace shooting was extremely tragic and leaves businesses on edge considering this incident could occur anywhere depending on the circumstances.

The disgruntled former brewery employee had worked at this Milwaukee plant for 15 years until he unfortunately slipped off a ladder and hurt his shoulder, which forced him to miss work, according to the NY Post. He confided in his next-door-neighbor that he had seen “spies” from his old company and complained that they had been sent to his house to watch his movements to make sure he wasn’t faking his injury. He had even pointed to a car outside and claimed to his neighbor that the person in the car was a “spy” and that it irritated him immensely.

Related Blog: How Cost-Effective are Physical Security Solutions in the  Workplace?

After being let go from the company Ferrill was unhappy. He returned to the Milwaukee brewery facility to carry out his attack using a silenced gun and entering the premises with a stolen name tag. The shocking Milwaukee workplace shooting resulted in the death of five victims, all former coworkers who worked as electricians and machinists, as well as the death of Anthony Ferrill himself.

Takeways from the Milwaukee Brewery Workplace Shooting to Mitigate Workplace Security Risk

Preventing Stolen Name Badges from Improper Use

For some businesses, taking precautions can be as simple as swapping out ID badges. We spoke with a security leader at a multinational poultry company who had a few thoughts about the Milwaukee workplace shooting. A major flag for him was that name badges should be worn by employees at all times and if they lose their badge, it should be reported immediately to turn off access. If the name badge or ID isn’t reported missing or stolen, disgruntled past employees or others could enter the workplace to harm employees, steal equipment, or gain access to the company network.

Related Blog: Workplace Door Badges Are Becoming Smarter and Here's What That  Means for Workplace Safety

Another major red flag that all companies should be considering is removing corporate and even personal names from the badge as someone picking it off the street can use that information maliciously.

Implement Mental Health Initiatives

After looking at the Milwaukee workplace shooting it is apparent that the shooter was struggling with some mental health issues. Reports from his neighbor show that he was paranoid and claimed spies were watching him, which could have contributed to his rash decisionmaking prompting him to enter his old workplace and murder his prior coworkers. It’s important to note that not everybody who struggles with mental health problems will be a threat to a company, but providing resources to help employees can be extremely beneficial.

Companies should implement mental health initiatives to ensure employees have a good mindset and won’t injure themselves or others. The CDC explains that mental health issues and stress can negatively impact job performance and productivity, engagement with one’s work, communication with coworkers, and physical capability and daily functioning. By implementing workplace health promotion programs employers can create a culture of wellness in the office. Below are some actions employers could take to promote mental health and wellness:

Related Blog: Employee Wellness and Workplace Safety Have Strong ROI

  • Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
  • Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
  • Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
  • Distribute materials, such as brochures, fliers, and videos, to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.

Invest in Workplace Safety Technology

Companies across the United States have been investing in workplace safety technologies to improve workplace security. Technologies such as mass notification systems and mobile panic buttons have proven to be effective ways to effectively communicate with employees and alert 9-1-1 and first responders if there is an emergency on work grounds.

A panic button solution can immediately alert a business’s security team of an intruder and simultaneously contact emergency services providing critical information, such as the location and nature of the emergency, to emergency responders which will help them when arriving on scene.

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Advice for Evaluating Safety Communication Solutions for Businesses

March 31, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

Corporate SafetyEarlier this year, we conducted a survey on employees' perceptions of workplace safety and emergency preparedness and published the results in a free to download whitepaper. The results of the survey are revealing inasmuch as they identify blind spots in critical communications and show that a significant number of respondents are unsure of how to react in different types of emergencies.

It was also noticeable that while businesses often use multiple channels of communications, few channels account for the complete picture of emergency incidents in the workplace. It also appears that, out of the workplace, communication with remote employees could be vastly improved - a measure that would also greatly improve employee engagement.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

In order to help businesses identify and eliminate blind spots in critical communications - and improve communication with remote workers - we have used what we learned from the results of the survey to develop a Business Safety Solutions Evaluations Kit. The Kit has the objective of enabling businesses to select dynamic and flexible solutions that keep everyone in the business connected and protected.

Where are the Blind Spots in Critical Communications?

The blind spots in critical communications vary according to the nature of the business operations, the physical layout of its campus, and its existing emergency communication solutions. According to the results of our survey, most businesses use multiple channels of communication in day-to-day activities, but many of these (i.e. email) are unsuitable for communicating in an emergency.

Our survey also found that, even when dedicated emergency channels exist, these don't necessarily communicate the nature of an emergency to every employee simultaneously. This can have consequences if employees are unsure about whether to evacuate or shelter in place, or if the communications fail to prevent employees entering a building in which an active assailant is present.

What Questions Should I Ask Vendors of Communication Solutions?

If blind spots in critical communications are identified, it's not only important they are eliminated, it is also important how they are eliminated. Emergency communication solutions should be capable of alerting everyone at risk of injury to the emergency, accelerating emergency response, and providing the maximum possible situational awareness during the emergency.

Related Blog: 4 Ways to Use Mass Notification to Promote Workplace Safety

However, implementing an emergency communications solution that cannot provide targeted alerts exacerbates business disruption, delays resolution, and hinders recovery. Therefore, our Business Safety Solutions Evaluations Kit suggest five questions businesses should ask vendors in order to balance safety with business continuity, and prompts businesses to think of other questions they might like to ask.

Why Certain Capabilities More Important than Others

One of the most successful techniques in sales is feature-benefit closing. It involves a salesperson explaining a feature, explaining how the feature can benefit a business, and then asking a closing question - for example, “This alarm system transmits a signal that can be heard 200 yards away. This means everyone in your factory will be able to hear it. Is that the level of coverage you are looking for?”

By answering the closing question affirmatively, the business is half-way to committing itself to a purchase. However, the level of coverage might not be as important as (say) two-way communication, ease of use, or anonymous text tips. Therefore our Kit provides a list of communication solution capabilities for businesses to select the most relevant to their circumstances.

Our Business Safety Solution Evaluations Kit is free to download! Click below. 

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Best Practices for Business Communications during the Coronavirus Outbreak

March 25, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

business communication coronavirusDuring this unprecedented period of uncertainty and disruption, organizations that implement best practices for business communications during the coronavirus outbreak will be better equipped to adapt to rapidly changing environments - giving them a better chance of surviving the disruption and recovering quicker.

In the past few weeks, there has been a flow of mixed messages about the coronavirus outbreak. Whereas some organizations claim it is “business as usual”, others report “America is shutting down”; and while it is being suggested by some authorities the disruption could take two weeks to resolve, others argue we could be looking at months of disruption rather than weeks - if not longer.

The short-notice implementation of lockdowns, school closures, and social distancing policies has meant organizations have had to quickly adopt to employees working from home, working split shifts, or not working at all - resulting in gaps in productivity, in the supply chain, and in revenues. However, the effects of this disruption can be mitigated by adopting best practices for business communications during the coronavirus outbreak.

Options for Business Communications during the Coronavirus Outbreak

The options for business communication during the coronavirus can vary depending on the location of the organization and - where applicable - the industry it operates in. In some locations, Internet coverage is not as good as others, so communication solutions such as email, collaboration tools, and social media chat groups will not be a viable option. Furthermore, there is no guarantee ISPs will be able to meet bandwidth demands if the coronavirus situation deteriorates significantly.

Organizations that operate in regulated industries may also not have a full range of communication solutions available to them due to laws governing how data is transmitted and where it is stored. Therefore, organizations should base communication strategies during the coronavirus outbreak on solutions with multi-modal messaging capabilities so if one channel fails or is non-compliant, others can take its place.

Related Blog: A Guide to Coronavirus Emergency Preparedness When Everyone is  Looking to You for Answers

In this respect, a mass notification system is the perfect multi-modal solution as it enables organizations to communicate with employees, team of employees, or individual employees by SMS text, voice broadcast, email, RSS, and social media. For organizations operating in noisy environments, a mass notification system can integrate with digital signage and public address systems; and - should a non-coronavirus related emergency occur - the platform should be compatible with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), the IPAWS-Open system, and WEB-EOC emergency management system.

Best Practices for Using Mass Notification during the Coronavirus Outbreak

Most organizations will already have a communications plan developed to support business continuity during emergencies, but few risk assessments will have considered business disruption at the scale we are witnessing during the coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, the best use of mass notification during the current crisis is to take advantage of its geo-polling capability in order to manage workforces and provide or receive updates from business partners.

The geo-polling capability enables organizations to send a question with a selection of answers to its database of contacts - or a subgroup of contacts - via text, email, and voice message. The question is answered by pressing buttons on the keypad, so the system can be used to contact individuals who have not got Internet-connected smartphones. It is also suitable for use in the event ISPs cannot cope with bandwidth demands.

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

The way in which organizations can use this capability will vary according to their specific operations and factors such as local lockdowns and travel restrictions. However, for a businesses operating both on-premises and with a remote workforce, the question and answers might look like this:

  • Q: Please send an update on your status
  • A1: I will be attending work as normal
  • A2: I am self-isolating and will work from home
  • A3: I have contracted the virus and am too ill to work

Working from the responses, HR and shift managers can then send subsequent questions and answers to manage groups of employees working from home or to fill vacant shifts by soliciting availability. Mass notification can also be used to communicate with business partners in the same way, while customers can also receive status updates from the organization (i.e. regarding goods, services, deliveries, etc.) via a mass notification system by taking advantage of a SMS opt-in/opt-out capability.

Surviving the Disruption and Recovering Quicker with Mass Notification

Earlier this month, published a guide to surviving the disruption and recovering quicker in which it stated “effective communication is key” for every best practice for business during the coronavirus outbreak. The guide recommends organizations collect and share information gathered from credible sources to educate them about the outbreak and ways to avoid it. (You can read more about what, when, and how to communicate with employees about coronavirus in this blog).

Certainly without effective communication, organizations will find it harder to adapt to rapidly changing environments, survive the disruption, and recover quicker from the coronavirus outbreak; and while organizational communication plans may have to be rapidly redesigned due to the impact of the outbreak on an organization's workforce, managing the revised communications plan is less complicated with a comprehensive mass notification solution.

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Overcoming Challenges for the Aging Workforce

March 24, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

aging workforce teaching younger workerIn this day and age, it’s no surprise; people are living longer. Over the last 5 decades the number of older people in the population and in the workforce has grown and is projected to continue to grow. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that by that one in four workers in the United States are over the age of 55. In the span of 20 years the employment of workers aged 65 or older has grown by an incredible 117%, and the employment of individuals ager 75 or older has also increased by the same rate. While the labor participation rate for workers aged 65 to 74 is expected to remain lower than those of prime working age, it is still anticipated to increase over the next decade, according to EHS Daily Advisor.

Benefits of Older Workforce

There is a large difference in population size when you look at the Baby Boomers and compare to subsequent generations. EHS Daily Advisor explains that there are not enough young workers to replace older workers currently in the workforce, essentially meaning employers must retain their older workers. There are many benefits from an aging workforce, including the following:

  • Low absenteeism and turnover
  • A strong work ethic among older workers
  • Maintenance or improvement in overall productivity of the workforce
  • Retention of experienced workers
  • The transfer of expertise among generations in a multigenerational workforce

Health & Safety of Older Workers

Generally, older workers are safer workers due to their past experiences. They’re less likely to engage in ‘risky’ behavior when compared to their younger coworkers. Although the aging workforce are injured less frequently, when they are injured of ill on the job it may be more severe. According to EHS Daily Advisor, normal age-related changes in an older worker may result in diminished cognitive, physical, or sensory capabilities.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

Overcoming Challenges for Aging Workforce

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, otherwise known as NIOSH, launched the National Center for Productive Aging and Work (NCPAW) back in 2015. EHS Daily Advisor explains that the center was launched to promote the lifelong wellbeing of older workers and promote productive aging.

Productive aging entails the following:

  • Providing a safe and healthy work environment for workers of all ages;
  • Creating working conditions that allow workers to function optimally and thrive on any job until the last day before full retirement; and
  • Enabling employers to benefit from the retention of institutional knowledge and the extensive skills of long-term, older workers.

Some of the ways a workplace can encourage productive aging is outlined below by EHS Daily Advisor:

  • A life-span perspective that considers the patterns of change and transition that occur, including in biological/physical, cognitive, and social areas. This perspective views the aging process as dynamic, adaptive, and influenced by the environment.
  • A comprehensive and integrated framework, as a part of the overall Total Worker Health framework, for improving worker safety, health, and well-being by utilizing a range of education and intervention strategies. These strategies draw from a growing knowledge base of factors affecting older workers, such as chronic disease management, ergonomics, healthy lifestyles, injury prevention, and workplace flexibility.
  • Outcomes that recognize the priorities of both workers and employers include worker-centered outcomes such as improving safety and well-being and employer-centered outcomes like reducing healthcare costs and maintaining job performance.
  • A supportive work culture for a multigenerational workforce consisting of four or five generations

Multigenerational Work Culture

One way to overcome challenges in an aging workforce is by developing an inclusive multigenerational work culture. This can be done by encouraging employees from different generations to share knowledge with their coworkers. An older employee may have more experience or tips and tricks to make work easier for those who are younger. On the flip side, older employees may benefit from new methods and technologies from younger workers.

Training Opportunities

Older workers are very capable of learning new skills, but training may have to be modified in order to improve their learning efficiency.

EHS Daily Advisor provides the following considerations for training your aging workforce:

  • Allowing extra time for training, maybe even employing self-paced learning schedules;
  • Ensuring that help is available and easy to access;
  • Ensuring that the training environment is free from distractions;
  • Using well-organized training material with important information highlighted;
  • Addressing learners’ concerns about equipment or technology used in training;
  • Minimizing demands on workers’ spatial abilities and working memory;
  • Providing sufficient practice to reinforce learning; and
  • Providing an active learning situation, allowing workers to discover ways of accomplishing tasks.

Safety Technology Considerations for Your Organization

Some organizations have invested in workplace safety technology, such as mobile panic buttons, to help ensure the safety and protection of their employees. If there were to be an accident at work, users could quickly alert 9-1-1, first responders, and on-site personnel simultaneously with just the push of a button.

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3 Factors to Consider when Developing a Healthcare Disaster Preparedness Plan

March 24, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

healthcare disaster preparedness planWhen organizations develop a healthcare disaster preparedness plan, most are already familiar with the requirements of CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule because they had implemented them as security best practices. However, there are three factors organizations may not be so familiar with.

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) published its Emergency Preparedness Rule in 2016, the agency acknowledged many healthcare organizations were already applying versions of the requirements, but in a way that isolated their efforts to prevent, mitigate, respond, and recover from disasters from the efforts of federal, state, tribal, and local emergency response networks. It was also the case, according to CMS, that the existing requirements were being applied inconsistently.

Related Blog: What are CMS Hospital Star Ratings and How Are They Calculated?

The requirement for organizations to develop a structured healthcare disaster preparedness plan has the objective of integrating individual organizational preparedness with federal, state, tribal, and local emergency response networks, and ensuring the requirements are applied consistently. Although there is “no-one-size-fits-all” framework for different types of healthcare organization, CMS has identified four core elements of emergency preparedness, and designed its Rule around these elements.

The Four Core Elements of Healthcare Disaster Preparedness

1. Risk Assessment and Planning

Healthcare organizations are exposed to many different types of risk every day. Most already have policies and procedures in place to prevent as many risks as they can, or mitigate their consequences. The Risk Assessment and Planning core element of the Emergency Preparedness Rule also requires organizations to develop strategies for how they will respond to a disaster and recover from it.

2. Policies and Procedures

The policies and procedures an organization develops to support its healthcare disaster preparedness plan will depend on the nature of its operations and whether it is an inpatient or outpatient facility. There are slightly different requirements for each of the seventeen types of healthcare provider or supplier and these are subject to change as the Emergency Preparedness Rule matures.

3. Communication Planning

Most organizations have some form of communications strategy for alerting staff and emergency services to a disaster. However, the Emergency Preparedness Rule stipulates that organizations have to ensure communication systems are coordinated across the facility and compatible with those of other healthcare organizations, public health agencies, and emergency management agencies.

4. Training and Testing

It is also the case most organizations educate their staff on policies and procedures during a disaster, and conduct regular drills to comply with the requirements of the Joint Commission and NFPA. However, whereas it was previously sufficient to conduct facility-based drills, organizations now have to conduct full-scale, community-based drills with the involvement of other healthcare organizations, public health agencies, and emergency management agencies.

The 3 Factors to Consider When Developing a Plan

Because most organizations are familiar with many of the requirements of the Emergency Preparedness Rule, it is possible to overlook some of the other requirements. This can make the difference between compliance with the Emergency Preparedness Rule and being underprepared when a disaster occurs. Consequently, we suggest organizations should pay particular attention to the following three factors:

The Revised Definitions of Emergencies and Disasters

Originally, the CMS interchanged the words emergency and disaster regularly; and, for an event to be considered a risk in a healthcare disaster preparedness plan, it had to be an adverse event that had an impact on people, property, or business continuity. However, in CMS' most recent “Interpretive Guidance”, the agency has defined both words separately and started using them in context:

Emergency: A hazard impact causing adverse physical, social, psychological, economic or political effects that challenges the ability to respond rapidly and effectively. It requires a stepped-up capacity and capability (call-back procedures, mutual aid, etc.) to meet the expected outcome, and commonly requires change from routine management methods to an incident command process to achieve the expected outcome.

Disaster: A hazard impact causing adverse physical, social, psychological, economic or political effects that challenges the ability to respond rapidly and effectively. Despite a stepped-up capacity and capability and change from routine management methods to an incident command/management process, the outcome is lower than expected compared with a smaller scale or lower magnitude impact.

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

The differences between the original definition and the revised definitions may only be subtle, but they are important to be aware of - particularly as they represent a significant departure from the Joint Commission's definitions, which were most commonly relied upon by healthcare facilities seeking Joint Commission accreditation. For the record, the Joint Commissions definitions are:

Emergency: An unexpected or sudden event that significantly disrupts the organization's ability to provide care, or the environment of care itself, or that results in a sudden, significantly changed or increased demand for the organization's services​

Disaster: A type of emergency that, due to its complexity, scope, or duration, threatens the organization's capabilities and requires outside assistance to sustain patient care, safety, or security functions

Changes to the Structure of the Emergency Management Team

Due to the requirement to integrate healthcare disaster preparedness with local emergency response networks, it may be necessary to change the structure of the emergency management team. Many healthcare organizations base their emergency management team's structure on the ICS 300 model; but due to the requirement to collaborate with external emergency agencies, ICS 300 is not an appropriate model to support a healthcare disaster preparedness plan - particularly in the Operations Section.

In a blog discussing the components of a hospital emergency management team, we elaborate on the differences between the ICS 300 model and a model for healthcare disaster preparedness. The example Operations Section below may not be a practical model for smaller organizations, but it demonstrates the range of roles and capabilities required by the Emergency Preparedness Rule. Certainly the blog is worth a read for healthcare organizations basing their emergency responses on the ICS 300 model.

ICS Model Healthcare Chart

Image source: Community Hospital

The Choice of Communication Solutions

A potentially overlooked factor within the Communications Plan element of the Emergency Preparedness Rule is that the plan must include a primary and alternate means for communicating with staff and local emergency management agencies before, during, and after any emergency or disaster. This is so that, if one system is inoperable due to the emergency or disaster, organizations can continue to communicate, provide instructions to staff, and request assistance when necessary.

Related Blog: Questions to Ask When Researching a Clinical Preparedness  Notification Tool

Due to the risk that in-house communication systems may be inoperable during an emergency (i.e. cyberattack) or disaster (i.e. widespread power failure), it is not appropriate to use (say) an in-house mail server as the primary channel of communication and an intranet as the alternate. Instead organizations should implement at least one communication solution with multi-modal communication capabilities (i.e. SMS, email, voice broadcasts, etc.) that can be integrated with the WebEOC system.

Bearing in mind that buildings may be inaccessible during an emergency and mains power may not be available, it is important that the chosen communication solution(s) can be operated remotely (i.e. via a smartphone or tablet) and charged up independently of a mains power supply (i.e. via a solar-powered battery charger). 

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What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about Coronavirus

March 16, 2020 Blog Author: Andrea Lebron

communicate with employees about coronavirusEmployers have an important role to play in mitigating the consequences of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak - not only by adjusting workplace policies and procedures to increase physical distance between employees (i.e. telecommuting and staggered shifts), but also by being a source of trusted information about the outbreak.

The coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly-evolving event; and, to best protect people from infecting themselves, loved ones, and colleagues, information about the outbreak has to be accurate, timely, and authentic. 

The failure to provide accurate information and a financial necessity to continue working despite feeling ill has resulted in people ignoring official advice, potentially accelerating the rate of the outbreak. Consequently, employers - who are likely to be more trusted by employees and who have the power to address financial hardship - have an important role to play in communicating information and mitigating the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.

What Should Employers Communicate about Coronavirus

As a trusted source of information, employers should share what is known about coronavirus and what they are doing or resources they can provide to make employees feel safe and supported.

Employer communications can help dispel rumors circulating on social media or through workplace gossip, and can be a valuable source of information about how to avoid contracting the disease, and what to do if symptoms manifest. Providing advice about how to access testing and other medical services will also help alleviate the burden on the healthcare system.

In many respects, employers have better insights into local situations, especially when working with local agencies, and can use their localized information to better protect workforces and the communities in which workforces live by providing accurate, timely, and authentic communications. The communications should also explain why certain actions are necessary. For example:

  • Symptoms of coronavirus may not manifest for up to 14 days (compared to flu's 1 to 4 days), which is why people are required to self-isolate for two weeks.

  • Pathogens of the virus (i.e. sneezes, coughs, etc.) can survive on certain types of surface for up to nine days, which is why frequent hand washing is so important.

  • The fatality rate for uncontained outbreaks of coronavirus in Italy is 7 percent. It could be even higher in the U.S. if measures are not enforced to contain the outbreak's spread.

  • There is no guarantee the spread of coronavirus will abate during warmer weather - this is likely to be a long-term event which may re-occur in future years.

  • Similarly, there is no guarantee people who have recovered from coronavirus are immune from catching it again.

When Employees Should Communicate Information about Coronavirus

It is not only important employers communicate with employees about coronavirus, the timing of communications is also important. Ideally, reminders about hygiene and social distancing (if a social distancing policy is in place) should be sent at the beginning and end of every shift, plus at times when employees might congregate - for example at lunch breaks.

Further communications should be sent whenever it is appropriate - for example if a rumor is circulating via social media or workplace gossip - and, even if it is not possible to dispel the rumor (because accurate information is not available), a communication can be sent reassuring employees the rumor is being investigated and further news will be shared once it is available.

By keeping on top of the “pulse” of the workforce - and providing a means through which concerns or rumors can be reported - employers can keep employees informed while minimizing business disruption. This can be the case whether employees are working at the business's premises or - more likely over the coming weeks - working from home.

How to Communicate with Employees about Coronavirus

One very important factor to consider when communicating with employees about coronavirus is how news and advice is shared. There is a growing volume of evidence suggesting “communication overload” contributes to critical communications being overlooked, and therefore increasing the number of corporate emails is not going to help get the message through.

Read More: Comparing Notification System Tools for Critical Communication

However, implementing an alternate channel of communication dedicated to communicating news and advice about coronavirus not only demonstrates an employer's commitment to keeping the workforce safe, messages sent through the alternate channel of communication are more likely to get noticed. There's only one issue with this approach - which channel of communication to use when the likelihood exists many employees may soon be working remotely?

The answer is a multi-modal communications solution that can communicate news and advice about coronavirus via multiple channels (i.e. SMS, voice broadcast, RSS, etc.). Businesses that implement these types of employee communication systems are able to reduce the communications management overhead by configuring the solution to send notifications at predetermined intervals, plus employees have access to a business-branded portal to select the mode of communication they receive news and advice about coronavirus.

Find Out More about Communicating Information about Coronavirus with Employees

Find out how you can encourage employee engagement through two-way communication - which enables employees to provide feedback and receive answers to coronavirus-related questions. Some solutions can also be adopted to resolve shift management issues through poll-based alerting. Furthermore, once the coronavirus emergency is over, proven mass notification systems will remain a valuable solution for alerting employees to emergency situations and managing them effectively.

People are frightened by the coronavirus outbreak - not necessarily for themselves, as the majority of victims will recover from the virus, but for loved ones who may be at a higher risk of dying due to their age or a preexisting medical condition. Nobody wants to be responsible for the unavoidable death of a parent or partner that could have been avoided with greater care, so speak with our team of safety experts today for further advice about how to communicate with employees about coronavirus.

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A Guide to Coronavirus Emergency Preparedness When Everyone is Looking to You for Answers

March 10, 2020 Blog Author: Andrea Lebron

guide (2)Our guide to coronavirus emergency preparedness provides advice on how to stay reliably informed, share information with others, and plan ahead for a potentially dynamic situation that could quickly impact the health of millions - with economic consequences for education, business and communities.

According to the CDC's most recent Coronavirus Disease Situation Summary (7th March), there have been 164 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. from which eleven people have died. By comparison, the CDC estimates 34 million U.S. citizens have contracted flu this season, resulting in 350,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths. So, why so much fuss about coronavirus?

From what we know about the virus so far it has the potential to be catastrophic because it has an attack rate three times higher than seasonal flu and a ten times higher mortality rate. The high attack rate is attributable to symptoms manifesting up to fourteen days after contracting the virus (compared to flu's one to four days), and pathogens of the virus surviving on surfaces for up to nine days.

This means the virus can be transmitted asymptomatically up to twenty-three days after a person has been infected - potentially infecting thousands more. Whereas people who have had the flu develop antibodies to combat future infections, no such immunity exists against coronavirus; resulting in a much higher mortality rate, particularly among those with pre-existing medical conditions. 


The Fear of the Unknown Drives Misinformation

Despite what is known about coronavirus so far, there is still a lot that is not known. This has led to a number of online sources speculating about the virus, what its consequences might be, and how people can best protect against it - and while a healthy lifestyle can promote a healthy immune system, other suggestions - such as drinking MMS or washing hands with vodka - will cause more harm than good.

Unfortunately fake news sites are attracting up to 142 times as much social engagement as official sources such as the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO). Some fake news sites underplay the potential scale of the outbreak, while others compare it to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 which had a much lower fatality rate - giving people a false impression about how serious this outbreak could be. 

This makes it imperative that you establish your agency as an official resource for accurate, reliable updates surrounding coronavirus.  

Related Blog: Pandemic Preparedness: What Communities Can Do with News of  Coronavirus

How to Stay Reliably Informed about Coronavirus

Despite questions over the number of confirmed cases reported by the CDC, the agency's website is still one of the most reliable for sources of information about coronavirus in the U.S. For up-to-date information about the virus in other areas of the world, WHO has a “rolling updates” page on its website (it also has a myth-busters page to dispel some of the rumors promoted by fake news sites).

Other reliable sources of information include:

  • Articles published in reputable medical journals by experts who use well-accepted scientific analyses.
  • The John Hopkins database which uses data released by city and state health authorities to record confirmed cases of the coronavirus
  • Major news outlets with deep expertise in health reporting, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe
  • The FDA's COVID19 web page, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine's dedicated Medicine Plus page - which is frequently updated with relevant news.
  • The CDC recently released a bot known as the "Coronavirus Self-Checker" to help healthcare providers decide where to prioritize coronavirus testing
  • ForHealth released the COVID-19 Path Forward, which includes 14 priority areas including physical distancing, widescale testing, contact tracing, and eventually number 14 being a vaccine. Experts from the CDC, Department of Epidemiology, Department of Environmental Health, and more weighed in to create this resource. 

All of these sources use Twitter to share information about coronavirus, as does the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs if you are planning to travel overseas. You should also follow Tweets from your local state health department, and local hospital. Many hospitals are now engaging on Twitter to provide advice about what you should do if you believe you have the symptoms of coronavirus.

How to Share Reliable Information with Others

Although each of the fifty states has its own version of what a duty of care consists of, most organizations have a legal obligation to protect those in its care from reasonably foreseeable hazards. The duty of care obligation can relate to (for example) educational institutions taking care of students, businesses taking care of employees, or state and local governments taking care of communities.

The potential for a widespread coronavirus outbreak comes under what most authorities would consider to be reasonably foreseeable, and therefore organizations should take steps to protect those in its care from contracting the virus - notwithstanding that any widespread coronavirus outbreak would have significant economic consequences for educational institutions, businesses, and communities.

Based on the accepted, global strategy for containing, delaying, and mitigating the consequences of an outbreak (PDF), organizations should collate and forward whatever reliable information is available in order to inform students, employees, communities, etc. about the measures they should take in order to protect themselves from infection and what to do if they show signs of infection.

Planning Ahead and the Communication of Plans

At this time, nobody knows how widespread the coronavirus outbreak will be. The most optimistic forecast is for the level of infection to peak in the middle of the year and subsequently subdue as more treatment options become available. Nonetheless, even in this scenario there will be issues with supply chains, consumer confidence, and workforce availability.

Consequently organizations should plan ahead and be ready to react to whatever scenarios occur - ideally developing an emergency preparedness team and creating a web portal from where students, employees, communities, etc. can access reliable and up-to-date information. The portal should be widely linked to in emails, on other web pages, and in other communications (i.e. social media).

Organizations should also have mass notification systems in place to alert individuals to the rapid deployment of plans. For example schools could use a system such as SwiftK12 to notify parents of school closures, while employers can take advantage of Rave Alert's powerful communication capabilities to advise employees to work from home and perform wellness checks if they are self-quarantined. To cover all eventualities, both SwiftK12 and Rave Alert provide the facility for visitors, contractors, and temporary staff to opt into the system via SMS.

Preparing for a Remote or Unavailable Workforce

For businesses, the most likely consequences of the coronavirus will be that employees are forced to self-isolate or refrain from going to work if a case is confirmed in the workplace. Therefore, not only is it important organizations have reliable systems in place to communicate coronavirus plans, but also that systems are implemented for communicating with remote workers and filling shift vacancies.

While plenty of tools exist for remote communication, collaboration, and accountability, the most likely problem for businesses is when the physical presence of an employee is required. In industries such as manufacturing, education, and healthcare, it is impossible for most employees to work from home and - in badly impacted locations - there could be significant staff shortages.

Finding replacement staff can be very time-consuming for HR managers, who might spend hours soliciting staff availability, and then further time answering calls from willing volunteers who are no longer required. The most practical solution to this problem is an automated staffing module, which solicits staff on their availability and then informs staff when the vacancies are filled.


Advice for State and Local Governments

State and local governments may have more complex scenarios to deal with than a school or business closing, and to help emergency preparedness teams prepare for events such as the breakdown of public health systems, WHO has prepared guidance on risk communication and community engagement at three different stages of an outbreak - preparing ahead of an outbreak, acting when the first cases are confirmed, and when there is ongoing community transmission of coronavirus.

The guidance notes that one of the most important and effective interventions in a public health response to any event is to proactively communicate what is known, what is unknown and what is being done to get more information, with the objectives of saving lives and minimizing adverse consequences. WHO suggests that planning ahead on how plans will be communicated minimizes and manages rumors and misunderstandings that undermine responses and may lead to further disease spread.

Among many valuable recommendations, WHO recommends building relationships with other emergency response agencies in order to assess communication capacities, identify typical target audiences, and plan communications roles. Collaboration between agencies, WHO states, will reduce the likelihood of an “infodemic” (an excessive amount of information about a problem that makes it difficult to identify a solution) and increase the probability that health advice will be followed.

Further Information about Communication Solutions

While existing Rave customers have access to multiple resources offering advice about communicating within educational institutions, businesses, and communities, safety leaders that are not yet using Rave Mobile Safety's suite of communication solutions are invited to get in touch and discuss their emergency preparedness with our team of safety experts.

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Employee Wellness and Workplace Safety Have Strong ROI

March 10, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

employee wellness workplace safety ROI It may come as a surprise to some businesses and organizations, but companies that adopt employee well-being and invest in employee safety as a broad business strategy can uncover substantial ROI. This is done by helping employees make their lives better, according to Forbes. In other words, by approaching employee health as a strategic business investment, employers can generate ROI.

Below are several ways to do so, outlined by Forbes.

Reduce Employee Turnover

Employee turnover can be a huge expense for businesses. According to Gallup, employee turnover in the United States costs employers over $1 Trillion yearly. When companies lose an employee, replacing them can cost between 33% and 150% of their annual salary depending on both skillset and seniority, as per Forbes. Losing tenured workers also impacts organization operations, damages company morale, and can make businesses less competitive in their market if they’re losing experienced employees.

Forbes explains that there is an indisputable link between employee well-being and low turnover, especially when you consider Mercer’s 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plan. This survey tells us that employers who make an effort to create a culture of health see 11% lower turnover rate when compared to employers who do little to make employee well-being a priority.

This Gallup Study found that managers have a large impact on their employee morale and retention through the following perceptions:

  • Their bosses don’t care about them
  • Their opinions don’t count
  • Their development is not encouraged
  • Their job lacks purpose and recognition
  • They see few growth opportunities

Ensuring managers understand the above and make a conscious effort to prioritize employee well-being is a great way to lessen employee turnover.

Boost Employee Engagement

According to Forbes, engaged employees “are the gold standard for business success.” This is because happy employees bring their best selves to work, go above and beyond what’s required, and are committed to the work they do. A Limeade report states that workers with high well-being are almost twice as likely to be engaged and enjoy their work.

By taking a look at well-being initiatives to boost employee engagement your company can increase ROI. A Gallup report tells us at only 35% of employees in the United States are engaged in their jobs which could lead to costly turnover, low productivity, and high worker absenteeism.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

Forbes provides the following steps for businesses to tackle low employee engagement:

  • Create a culture and environment of employee well-being
  • Help employees find pride and purpose in their jobs
  • Recognize employees who deliver great job performance
  • Build on employee strengths and provide solid career paths

Virgin Pulse’s 2017 State of the Industry Survey showed that 56% of companies that invested in employee engagement saw higher employee satisfaction, 40% saw enhanced company culture, and 14% saw revenue growth, according to Forbes.

Consider Mental Health

Mental health awareness is an important and trending topic across the country. According to research by the National Alliance on Mental Health, mental illnesses can cost the U.S. economy $193.2 billion in lost earnings annually. By providing employees access to mental health care and employee wellness programs it is likely your business will run smoother, as per Digiday.

“There is a data-driven case for improving the mental health of our employees,” said Heidi Taglio, head of talent for Eleven. “Mental health-related and substance-abuse issues cost businesses approximately $90 billion annually. So there’s a reason for companies and agencies to be invested,” she noted. “And it is the right thing to do.”

Acknowledging mental health and providing resources for workers is key, as addressing the topic can sometimes be tricky when it comes to confidentiality.

“Managers and leaders in agencies should acknowledge that this is something we deal with,” said the in-house agency employee. “You can have the best company in the world. But if people don’t really care for you, all those cool perks don’t really matter.”


Improve Customer Service

Customer service is the core of many company’s success. Forbes explains that when a business has great customer service, they often see better financial results. Typically, employee well-being and good customer service go hand in hand, which also rings true when it comes to low employee well-being and poor customer service.

If a worker is stressed or has difficulties outside of work and in their personal lives, this can be brought to work. This unhappiness can impact their customer service abilities and potentially hurt corporate reputation.

Workers who are happy and have high well-being tend to provide much better customer service, be more productive, and show more enthusiasm towards the job they do. These factors, when harnessed strategically, boost bottom lines with real ROI, according to Forbes.

Invest in Workplace Safety

With heartbreaking mass shootings and destructive severe weather threats across the United States, workplace safety is top of mind. When an employee goes to work in the morning, they want to return home safely after the day is done. Businesses and organizations are expected to provide a safe and secure work environment without any health or safety hazards. When a workplace is safe, employees are likely to feel more comfortable and productive, which reflects back to ROI.

Some businesses are leveraging their mass notification systems to help bolster the feeling of safety around the workplace. Others are investing in workplace safety technologies such as anonymous tip software and mobile panic button applications to improve emergency preparedness and response.

In our annual Workplace Safety and Preparedness survey over 540 surveys were completed by full-time employees in numerous industries across the United States. Within the survey we asked workers whether they felt safe at work and if they believed their employer would be prepared for an emergency. Discover our findings below!

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OSHA Turns 50 - 50 Years of Workplace Safety

March 3, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

OSHA Workplace SafetyAs we entered the new decade, so did the beginning of OSHA’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration. With such a large anniversary, OSHA, or the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, plans to commemorate this milestone this year by celebrating past achievements, current events, and future initiatives, according to ISHN. With workplace safety being such an important topic in the United States, this year-long celebration couldn’t come at a better time. Although the OSH Act was signed in by President Nixon in 1970, workplace disasters from before the 70’s prompted the public to agree that government intervention in hazardous workplaces was essential.

Before OSHA: Workplace Safety History

There were some high-profile tragedies that occurred in the U.S. in the early 1900’s such as the 1907 mine disaster in Monongah, West Virginia, that killed 362 coal miners and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City that claimed the lives of 146 workers. From there Congress created the Department of Labor in 1913 which began to compile accident statistics beginning in the iron and steel industry and gradually other dangerous industries.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

In the 1930’s President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins as the Secretary of Labor as she had considerable experience working in the occupational safety and health field in New York. She then created the Bureau of Labor Standards in 1934 promoting health and safety for the entire workforce. According to ISHN the Bureau helped State governments to improve their administration of job safety and health laws as well as raise the level of their protective legislation.

OSHA is Created: 50 Years of History

On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and OSHA was born. MCR Safety explains OSHA’s mission is “to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and healthy.”

Related Blog: 4 Ways to Use Mass Notification to Promote Workplace Safety

Below we’ll breakdown the last 5 decades of OSHA’s growth with information from

  • 1970’s
    OSHA was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and opened its doors on April 28, 1971. During the first decade OSHA issued the first standards for asbestos, lead, carcinogens, and cotton dust. The OSHA Training Institute, safety and health training grants, the On-Site Consultation Program, State Plans, and whistleblower protections for workplace safety were also established in the 1970’s.

  • 1980’s
    During the 1980’s the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that workers would now have the right to refuse unsafe tasks in the workplace. OSHA issued standards that required companies to let workers know which chemicals they may be exposed to and provide worker medical and exposure records. During this decade the Voluntary Protection Programs were created, new standards on safety testing and certification of workplace equipment were put in place, and important worker protections for combustible grain dust, trenching, noise, and hazardous energy were established.

  • 1990’s
    In the 1990’s OSHA issued the Process Safety Management standard and provided stronger protections for workers from falls, bloodborne pathogens, toxic substances, working in confined spaces, longshoring and marine terminals, and laboratories. Within this decade workers also began to receive health and safety trainings through the first ever OSHA Education Centers. The agency then expanded collaboration with employers through its Strategic Partnership Program, according to OSHA.

  • 2000’s
    In the new millennium OSHA worked with federal, state, and local partners to ensure the protection of the safety and health of the recovery workers after the unprecedented challenges faced by American workers following the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks and the devastating Hurricane Katrina. New standards to improve workplace safety for those working in construction and steel erection to prevent exposure to hexavalent chromium were also put in place.

  • 2010’s
    After the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, OSHA helped protect workers responsible for performing cleanup activities from hazards such as inhaling dangerous chemicals. OSHA also issued standards for silica dust, cranes, confined spaces, and the classification and labeling of work-related chemicals. The number one cause of worker fatalities was brought to OSHA’s attention, which sparked the launch of their fall prevention campaign.

  • Moving Forward
    As OSHA continues to protect the workers of the United States it’s nice to look back at the last 50 years. It’s clear OSHA has a lot to celebrate. Workplace fatalities and injuries have decreased dramatically, but the work OSHA has done is not over. It’s important to understand the commitment OSHA has to keeping workers safe and healthy, as it is every worker’s right.

Watch this great video from OSHA below:


Workplace Safety and Preparedness

OSHA has done a lot to ensure the safety of workers across the United States. No matter what industry, whether it be a construction site or a corporate setting, workplace safety is extremely important. When somebody leaves to go to work, they expect to come home safe and sound.

Discover insights from our second annual Workplace Safety and Preparedness survey in which over 540 surveys were completed by full-time employees across various industries in the U.S. The survey asked respondents about how safe they feel at work, and whether they believed their employer is prepared for an emergency.

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Workplace Door Badges Are Becoming Smarter and Here's What That Means for Workplace Safety

February 25, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

workplace door badge workplace safetyWorkplace safety is at the forefront of employers’ minds, especially with an uptick of violent incidents reported in the media across the United States. Whether an active assailant incident or cyberattack, safety and security threats can shake a business and impact how it runs and devastate the employees who work there. Technology is advancing at an increasingly fast rate and companies are taking advantage of this new tech to improve both workplace operations and safety.

New Workplace Technology: Replacing the Traditional ID Badge

In a recent Wall Street Journal article author Catherine Stupp delves into workplace technology and how plastic ID cards may not be around forever. This is especially true with the new high-tech biometric systems, microchip implants, gait recognition, and other technologies that have been created to improve security, generate health data, and monitor workers and employees.

Some employers have started using facial recognition such as face and iris scans, which are much more difficult to spook than a standard plastic ID card, according to WSJ. These cameras scan the faces and eyes of employees as they enter the office and can also be configured to tag an individuals face to block re-entrance for contracted workers or somebody who has left the company for example. Shaun Moore, chief executive of Trueface, a facial-recognition provider, explains that this technology is increasingly popular within companies with large workforces and in construction firms who are regularly sending new workers to building sites and need to track who is where.

Related Blog: Recap: The 2020 Higher Ed Spending Package

Another developing technology is being referred to as gait recognition. By using cameras this technology can recognize and identify people based on their body shape and the way they move. Vir Phoha, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Syracuse University says, “In places with especially tight security, such as workplaces that handle hazardous materials or heavy machinery, several different ID technologies could be linked to repeatedly identify workers as they move around.” This means that video cameras could recognize a workers face as they enter the building, and then analyze the way they walk as well as the employees typing style to positively verify whether it is the same person.

Early adopters are now offering employees the option to insert microchips in their hands to open doors, log into computers, reserve conference rooms, and even pay for vending machine snacks, according to WSJ. These microchips are the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under the skin between the thumb and forefinger where they cannot be felt. After they’re implanted employees can scan their hands over chip readers to gain access to the office. Jowan Österlund, chief executive of Biohax International, a Swedish maker of implantable ID chips explains that this technology cannot be lost, stolen, or copied. He also says that eventually he’d like to develop the microchips so that they can track wearer’s health data. Those who have a microchip can share details such as their pulse or stress levels with employers which can help them determine whether the office environment is healthy, or if there has to be changes made.

How Technology Upgrades Could Help Workplace Safety

These technologies may seem radical and exciting now, but in the future we may see them implemented in many businesses and companies across the world. Not only can they generate personalized health and productivity data, but they also play a large role in making workplaces more secure and easier to navigate.

Gait recognition, for example, could reveal important information on how an employee is feeling and their well-being over time. Workplace violence often begins with small incidents of negative remarks and then may escalate to physical violence. There are telling warning signs such as changes in their behavioral patterns as well as crying, sulking, or temper tantrums, excessive absenteeism or lateness, and pushing the limits of acceptable conduct or disregarding the health and safety of others according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Gait recognition could pick up on these behavioral changes and alert managers before an employee becomes violent in the workplace.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

Facial and iris recognition could also be extremely important in workplace security when it comes to intruders or angry past employees. As mentioned above, after somebody has left the company, or was fired, the software can tag specific faces and block them access back into the office or place of work.

Businesses are also turning to mobile panic button technology to improve workplace safety, as an easy to use app can simultaneously alert employees, 9-1-1, and first responders in the event of an emergency. Whether it be a workplace violence incident, intruder, or medical emergency, users can quickly get critical information to first responders and essentially speed up emergency response times.

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Recent Escalation of Fatal Attacks Prompts Calls for Increased Security at Places of Worship

February 18, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

candlelight after church massacreAttacks against places of worship are not a new phenomenon; and although the volume of attacks against places of worship is no greater than it was a decade ago, the number of incidents resulting in one or more fatalities has escalated - prompting calls for increased security.

In April 1990, Congress passed the Hate Crimes Statistics Act requiring the attorney general to collect data relating to “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity”. The responsibility for collecting data was delegated to the FBI, who - via the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program - has developed an extensive database spanning almost three decades.

Due to the sortable nature of the database, it is possible to extract statistics relating to hate crimes that have occurred in churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other places of worship. The data reveals that the volume of attacks against places of worship is much the same as it was ten years ago, although considerably higher than it was five years ago.

However, what the bare data doesn't show is a recent escalation of fatal attacks. These have increased significantly over the past ten years according to the Faith Based Security Network (FBSN) - a non-profit charity that monitors attacks against places of worship and their outcomes. The chart below illustrates why church leaders are calling for increased security at places of worship.

fatal attacks at places of worship graph

How Places of Worship are Reacting to this Escalation

Places of worship are reacting to this escalation of fatal attacks in a number of ways. Some use teams of armed volunteers to provide security at services, while others have engaged private firms to protect worshippers. In some states, legislation has been passed to fund security training for volunteers, or to pay for security measures such as shatterproof glass and CCTV cameras.

Federal grants are also available through FEMA's Nonprofit Security Grants Program, but grants are capped to $75,000 per congregation and the total budget available for nonprofit security grants per year is $20 million. With about 384,000 places of worship throughout the country, the federal government has been criticized for not doing enough to help protect soft targets.

Related Blog: Increasing Soft Target Security - One Year On

In its defense, FEMA provides a wealth of resources to help places of worship better protect themselves. In addition to explaining how congregations can participate in federally-funded preparedness activities, and become involved in community emergency management, FEMA's website includes links to courses, webinars, and a very relevant Guide for Developing Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship.

The guide acknowledges attacks against places of worship are not a new phenomenon and notes that they often happen with little or no warning. Due to the escalation of incidents resulting in one or more fatalities, the guide dedicates a full section to emergency planning in the event of an active assailant situation.

Protecting House of Worship against Attacks

Much of the advice provided by the guide to protect houses of worship against active assailants is similar to that provided for schools. Among other measures, FEMA recommends having technologies in place to report suspicious activities, discretely alert 9-1-1 to active assailants, warn congregations of a threat. It also recommends providing 9-1-1 with facility plans to better prepare first responders.

Protecting Houses of Worship Whitepaper

Implementing Emergency Response Plans in Manufacturing Facilities

February 11, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

manufacturing emergency response planIt’s important for businesses to create and have comprehensive emergency response plans in place in the case of a workplace emergency. It’s especially important that workplaces with hazardous materials, heavy machinery, and increased risks for injury on the job to have a comprehensive emergency response plan. Those working in the manufacturing industry are often exposed to workplace hazards that could cause extreme injury or even death, which is why being prepared for emergencies within the workplace is paramount.

In 2018 there were 342 fatal injuries and 395,300 non-fatal injuries in the manufacturing industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These numbers prove safety should be on the forefront of employee’s minds and that an emergency response plan must be in place to keep a manufacturing facility running.

How to Implement an Emergency Response Plan in Manufacturing

Risk Assessment

Before creating an emergency response plan, there should be a full risk assessment conducted on-site. There are three stages of risk assessment and the Receptionist has listed as follows:

  • Hazard identification:
    Consider which types of hazards could affect your company, from natural disasters to human-caused dangers.
  • Vulnerability assessment:
    In this stage, consider which assets are at risk from each potential hazard. The most important “asset” is always your employees, but you’ll also have to worry about things like supply chain interruptions and even your company’s long-term reputation.
  • Impact analysis:
    This is where you get clear about the actual, measurable damage that could be done by the disaster.

Once you have identified the risks within your facility and have determined what the strengths and weaknesses are, you can begin creating your emergency response plan. 

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

Create Emergency Response Plan

Once your facility has determined the problem areas or hazards, as well as strengths, you can start to create an emergency response plan around facing any hazards for the company.

Below are some emergency options to keeping your employees safe from The Receptionist:

  • Evacuation:
    All building occupants must be relocated in the case of emergencies such as fires, hazardous chemical spills, gas leaks, and bomb threats. Evacuation plans require safe, clearly marked routes to exits and clearly designated meeting spaces.
  • Shelter or Shelter-In-Place:
    The safest option in the face of many outside threats, such as a tornado or an external chemical spill, is to take shelter within the appropriate space inside the workplace. Employees need to know exactly how to get to the designated safe spaces for each emergency scenario.
  • Lockdown: 
    In the case of an on-site threat of violence or a threat of violence in the vicinity, the best course of action is to lock employees inside, instruct them to barricade the entrances, and shut down outside access to the building.

Employees should understand the differences between these emergency options, and in what situations they’ll be implemented during an emergency.

It would also be helpful to encourage employees to take on certain rolls, including who should be authorized to order an evacuation or shutdown and which employees are responsible for moving building occupants to safe spaces. Making workplace safety a team effort should be both rewarding as well as informational. Your employees should be prepared for any and every safety threat within the manufacturing plant.

Efficient Communication Strategy

Communication during an emergency is essential. Employees and building visitors must be informed of any emergencies from an impending weather event such as a tornado, to a hazardous chemical spill on a certain floor, to an active assailant situation in the building.

A communication strategy should be a top priority during the creation of an emergency response plan, as employees and workers will rely on the manufacturing facility to have highly efficient communication throughout the event of a crisis.

Related Blog: How to Successfully Implement a Culture of Accountability to  Address Safety Concerns in the Manufacturing Industry

Educate and Train Employees

An emergency response plan will only be effective if it is tested, tweaked, and taught to employees. Your manufacturing facility should conduct intensive safety training sessions so that they understand how to act in the case of an emergency, and should also make sure the emergency response plan is readily accessible.

Practice makes perfect, and in an emergency situation the way it is handled should be as close to perfect as your company can get. You should run frequent drills for several emergency situations and work through any issues that may arise, which will streamline emergency response.

Technology Solutions to Help

Manufacturing businesses are turning to safety technology solutions, such as mass notification technology and mobile panic button applications, to help streamline communications between users, workers, and visitors.

Mass notifications are essential in an emergency situation, as employees and visitors should always be informed if there is something going on. With a simple text message to a short code, visitors can instantly be signed up to the manufacturing facilities emergency notification platform to receive updates in the case of an emergency for an allotted amount of time.

By using a mobile panic button application, users can call 9-1-1 with just the tap of a button informing workers, 9-1-1, and first responders of an emergency simultaneously. Call dispatchers will also have all facility plans through the technology allowing them to direct first responders more effectively.

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How to Successfully Implement a Culture of Accountability to Address Safety Concerns in the Manufacturing Industry

February 4, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

manufacturing industry safetySafety experts believe that, by implementing a culture of accountability for safety in the workplace, businesses in the manufacturing industry can reduce avoidable injuries and increase efficiency and productivity. However, there are challenges involved in implementing a culture of accountability.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 343 fatal and 395,300 non-fatal injuries in the manufacturing industry in 2018. Although these statistics mean the rate of fatal and non-fatal injuries per 100 Full Time Employees has fallen by a third over the past ten years, manufacturing is still one of the most dangerous industries to be employed in.

Related Blog: The Top Health and Safety Apps Your Construction Employees Need  on Their Smartphones

The table below lists the top five safety hazards in manufacturing; and, in many cases, injuries from these safety hazards are avoidable. Safety experts believe that, while many businesses make great efforts to implement physical safety mechanisms, not enough is being done to develop a culture of accountability for safety in the workplace.

The Top 5 Safety Hazards in Manufacturing

Slips, trips, and falls

Poorly installed or missing machine safety guards

Powered industrial trucks, fork lifts, and platform lifts

Electrical faults

The failure to follow lockout/tagout procedures


What is a Culture of Accountability for Safety in the Workplace?

A culture of accountability for safety in the workplace is one in which, rather than employers taking responsibility for policing compliance with safety policies, employees are accountable for the safety of their tools, equipment, and workspaces, and those of their colleagues. This type of accountability is claimed to foster individual initiative, open communication, and co-employee support.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

Admittedly, there are challenges involved in implementing a culture of accountability due to existing working practices and an entrenched culture of blame. To overcome these challenges, employees must be encouraged to report safety issues, be given the tools to report them (anonymously if necessary), and feel confident the reports are being attended to.

How to Successfully Implement a Culture of Safety

One of the easiest ways to successfully implement a culture of safety is via a text messaging safety app. Using the app, employees can text their safety concerns (anonymously if necessary) to maintenance, security, or management teams, who can review the messages via a central dashboard on which all text messages are recorded. This enables the teams to prioritize reports and organize remedial action.

The way in which the concerns are recorded, prioritized, and remediated introduces a degree of accountability for maintenance, security, or management teams. If, for example, an employee reports a missing machine safety guard, and nothing is done about it within an acceptable period of time, the concern can be escalated with proof a report was made.

Further Benefits of Text Messaging Safety Apps

Text messaging safety apps also function as emergency panic buttons, so that if a workplace accident occurs, employees can call 9-1-1 with two taps of a smartphone screen. The benefit of using this system is that the app relays the nature and location of the emergency to call dispatchers automatically - which saves call dispatchers time asking questions about the accident and accelerates emergency response.

The text messaging safety system can also be integrated with workplace alert systems so that, in the event of an emergency requiring an evacuation or lockdown, co-employees are notified simultaneously. Call dispatchers can also get access to facility plans through the system in order to further accelerate emergency response and better prepare first responders for their arrival.

Find Out More about Workplace Safety Technologies

Evidence suggests that, by exchanging a culture of blame for a culture of accountability, businesses benefit not only from fewer avoidable injuries, but also from increased efficiency and productivity.

If your business would like to improve its safety posture by implementing a culture of safety - and increase efficiency and productivity at the same time - discover our business solutions below. 

Business Critical Communication Solutions Platform

The Top Health and Safety Apps Your Construction Employees Need on Their Smartphones

January 28, 2020 Blog Author: Tara Gibson

construction worker safetyWorker safety is extremely important to businesses across the country, especially if you’re in the business of construction. Why? This field typically see the most workplace injuries and unfortunately deaths. Construction workers are exposed to many dangerous situations on the job when compared to the average desk position, including high heights and hazardous equipment. Out of 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2018, 1,008 or 21.1% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths in 2018 were in construction, according to OSHA.

According to EHS Today, each day on average two construction workers die of work-related injuries. What is known to the construction industry as the “Fatal Four”, OSHA breaks down the leading causes of worker deaths in construction which accounted for over half of construction worker deaths in 2018. By eliminating the Fatal Four, almost 600 workers’ lives in the United States would be saved in every year.

Related Blog: The Top 20 Workplace Safety Quotes to Engage Employees

EHS Today provides this important infographic with accidents statistics from Wilson Kehoe Winingham LLC below:


Health and Safety Apps Your Construction Employees Need on Their Smartphones

As smartphones are now the new norm, and apps range from mobile banking to realty to social media, we decided to break down some of the top health and safety apps that could be extremely beneficial to those working in construction.

  1. First Aid App
    The First Aid App was created by the American Red Cross and has helpful information with simple instructions which allow workers to quickly address accidents and serious injuries. The app has videos, interactive quizzes, and step-by-step advice to make first aid easy.

    First Aid App

  2. OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool
    This app provides real-time heat index and hourly forecasts specific to your location, as well as occupational safety and health recommendations from OSHA and NIOSH. If a construction worker is working outside, it’s helpful to know plan out the day knowing how hot it will be.

    Heat Safety Tool App

  3. Ladder Safety
    As one of the top dangers for construction workers is falls, the Ladder Safety app created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is extremely helpful. This app was dedicated to ensuring the safety of extension ladder users by developing and easy-to-use interactive ladder app for smartphones. Users will find graphic-oriented interactive reference materials, safety guidelines, checklists, inspection, accessorizing, and use.

    Ladder Safety App

  4. Decibel: dB Sound Level Meter
    The Decibel Meter app description explains that this app provides quick and easy sound measurement allowing users to keep track of the noise around them. This app will help workers avoid dangerous noise levels.

    Decibel App

  5. iAuditor: Inspections & Audits
    For those conducting inspections and audits on construction sites, this app is great. Users have utilized this app for running risk assessments, creating incident reports, analyzing job safety, and more. By digitizing a paper-based system, the easy to use iAuditor App has the ability to create custom templates, scan existing PDF files, or build an inspection form from scratch.

    iAuditor App

  6. Lift-All Sling Calculator
    The Lift-All Sling Calculator was designed to assist users in selecting the appropriate size slings for lifting applications.

    Lift-All Sling Calculator App

  7. Chemical Hazards Pocket Guide
    The Chemical Hazards Pocket Guide assists users by both recognize and control occupational chemical hazards. The information provided is a concise source of general industrial hygiene information for construction workers. Each chemical is listed with aliases and trade names as well as descriptions on whether its dangerous to touch, inhale, if it’s flammable, and more.

    Chemical Hazards Pocket Guide App

  8. Personal Safety App: Rave Guardian
    The Rave Guardian app is a custom-branded personal safety application that helps businesses both connect and engage with their employees wherever they are. With the push of a button users can instantly be connected to 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency with the ability to send a text message, photo, and share their location in real-time.

    Users can also send in anonymous tips or initiate a two-way chat to prevent dangerous situations, for example, if a workers notices somebody on the jobsite wasn’t wearing all of their required PPE (personal protective equipment) they can send that tip in to a safety professional who can then make a call on how to address the problem. Employers also have the ability to send geo-targeted alerts to employees as well as check in on employees.

    Rave Guardian App

Interested in learning more about Rave Guardian? Click below.

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