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COVID-19 and its impact on Irish workplaces – OSH professionals experience and observations of preparation and adaptation
2022-01, Buggy, Conor J., Chen, Yanbing, Roe, Mark, Sripaiboonkij, Penpatra, Drummond, Anne, Perrotta, Carla
Introduction: An investigation of Irish workplace adaptation to COVID-19 was conducted to assess impact to workers, their organisations and to develop new OSH adaptation mechanisms for future health emergencies. Materials and Methods: As part of the study, OSH professionals (n=60), each representing their workplace, took part in a series of semi-structured online focus groups. Each focus group incorporated twenty quantitative questions (covering four themes: organisational preparedness; organisational impacts; worker impacts; and the future of OSH) that were answered anonymously via a poll function. Results: 59 participants completed the questions. 58% of workplaces began pandemic preparations prior to COVID-19 emerging in Ireland. 66% of workplaces remained open while 27% were partially closed. 34% of workplaces had more than half their workforce working from home (5% pre-pandemic). 37% of workplaces had a working from home policy with 54% of workplaces having risk assessments for infectious diseases in place prior to the pandemic. 41% of workplaces had identified a viral pandemic scenario as part of its emergency planning prior to COVID-19. OSH professionals indicated that the majority (63%) of their colleagues understood the control measures instigated as a response to COVID-19 with a greater majority (90%) more willing to accept future workplace changes if they know it is to keep them safe and healthy. Conclusion: Irish workplaces adapted well to the changing OSH landscape that emerged in response to COVID-19. Irish workplaces are now more likely to be able to adapt and respond well to future public health emergencies.
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Worker adaptation behaviours and mental health impacts in Irish workplaces arising from COVID-19 – observations of OSH professionals
2022-01, Chen, Yanbing, Buggy, Conor J., Roe, Mark, Sripaiboonkij, Penpatra, Drummond, Anne, Perrotta, Carla
Introduction: Workers quickly adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to comply with updated work arrangements, control measures and policies. Understanding adaptation difficulties/fatigue and mental health issues among workers is crucial for OSH professionals to plan for future emergencies. Materials and Methods: As part of a larger COVID-19 workplace study, 16 two-hour focus groups (4-6 participants each) were conducted with OSH professionals (n=60) in Ireland, covering four predetermined themes (organisational preparedness; organisational impacts; worker adaptation behaviour; and the future of OSH post-pandemic). Thematic analysis was conducted using Nvivo. Results: OSH professionals observed many workers rapidly adapted and became involved in organisational COVID-19 outbreak prevention and long-term adaptation, in contrast to some workers that exhibited mental health problems as they struggled to adapt. Adaptation fatigue was observed when staff were sent home to work due to a range of factors: 1) isolation at home 2) no boundary between work and life; and 3) inability to disconnect from negative media coverage. The situation can be alleviated by 1) increasing informal communication to cope with isolation; 2) Employee Assistance Programmes; and 3) additional consultation regarding their COVID-19 concerns. Conclusion: Most Irish workplaces focused more on employees’ physical safety rather than their mental wellbeing. The experiences shared by OSH professionals in this study illustrate their agility and ability to apply their risk management and control skills to any unanticipated public/occupational health crisis that arises.