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Inside Retail & Safety Culture

How you can help your frontline staff fight Covid-19

SafetyCulture COO Alistair Venn says government and industry need to give people the right tools and conditions to do the right thing and help keep us all safe

Victoria continues to make moves out of the strict stage 3 and 4 restrictions. New Zealand has reported a case after 22 Covid-free days, while Hong Kong looks to be experiencing a fourth wave. In all of this uncertainty, it’s clear that we’re in it for the long haul and complacency is the enemy. Clear communication is key to ensure we’re all taking the right actions day after day. 

While many people will continue to work from home, those employed in service industries are putting their personal health on the line every day for the benefit of others. These are the healthcare workers, aged care workers, teachers, delivery drivers and supermarket workers providing essential services.

Most of Victoria’s second wave of infections have been traced back to returned travellers who went through hotel quarantine, with the worst impact felt by some of the most vulnerable members of our communities in the aged care sector. Everyone is responsible in these high-risk environments but we must help people do the right thing. This is a critical consideration in minimising the health and economic impacts of Covid-19 in the foreseeable future. 

A change of tack

One of the biggest learnings from the past few months is that traditional compliance models are ineffective in managing the pandemic. Our experience as a business focused on improving workplace safety and efficiency is that effective behaviour change requires the buy-in and support of all frontline workers. They need to be given the right tools and conditions to drive it.

Working environments were already complex and fast-moving before Covid-19 but the pandemic has taken this to a whole new level. Since the number of cases in Australia first started to spike in February, federal and state government guidance has changed frequently as we’ve learned more about the virus and how best to manage the spread.

This is the nature of the situation we find ourselves in but the way this critical information is being communicated in long, complex streams is untenable. It simply isn’t fair to expect that frontline workers stay across all of these different updates while managing increased workloads and stressful situations. We need to see a new approach from government and business if these guidelines are to be adopted efficiently and effectively.

This means breaking information down into manageable chunks that people can act on. And it means reconsidering the breadth of new information released to staff and the general public at any one time. Our experience driving safety and quality across various industry sectors has taught us that short checklists, repeated often, can be the most effective method to drive meaningful change. 

Covid-19 has taught governments and businesses across industry sectors that traditional top-down compliance models should be replaced by ones giving frontline workers more control. It’s the front-line employees, not the executives, who actually deal with each and every Covid-19 process. As the eyes on the ground, they are better placed to improve and drive safety practices. We need to empower them with autonomy and the ability to raise issues and take corrective action without unnecessary red tape. 

It’s obvious that we all have to take responsibility for our actions but human nature means that we’re all more likely to do the right thing when it’s made easy for us. You can follow the four steps to build an early warning system for your business here.

iAuditor by SafetyCulture is available to help Retailers manage the challenges of operating through a pandemic. Inside Retail subscribers can sign up for a free account preloaded with key retail related checklists to get you started here.