Critical Incident Response

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COVID-19 has caused significant disruption and presents unforeseen risk to the wellbeing of individuals and businesses. When you consider your Work Health and Safety (WHS) obligations, you most likely consider workplace SAFETY. Now, more than ever, it’s important to ensure you’re also factoring in the HEALTH of your employees. Altius Group’s Matthew Counsel provides some advice to get you started.

Breaking your obligations into a framework addressing short, medium and longer-term impacts, the response required and some strategies for each phase can be a helpful start. Ignoring the alarming indicators may lead to a failure of due diligence and result in WHS breaches and workers compensation implications.

Early Stage Intervention

Risk Assessments and Reviews
This is the stage we are all looking at now, our immediate response, and it can seem overwhelming. Altius Group is able to help by carrying out an initial risk assessment and a COVID-19 review of your business operations. We’re able to capture and diagnose the areas of your business exposed by the pandemic and how this might change the way your business operates in the future. We can assess risks involved with people working from home and virus enforced changes to operations.

Remote Consulting
We can carry out these assessments and consult to you through video conferencing technology, through Interviews with key business representatives. Once we understand key operations and identify key areas of risk exposure we deliver a scorecard and recommendations for your business.

Tailored Solutions for Compliance
From there we can tailor solutions that are relevant to businesses. There is no one size fits all so we work one on one with businesses to create solutions that will effective for their workplace.

Work Health and Safety solutions for this early stage include:

  • Business Operations Compliance: Looking at the WHS legislation, we ensure regulations relevant to a business are carried out at a policy and procedure level to make sure a business it equipped to respond. Some businesses are already well underway in this regard – we can give you a professional compliance review and advise on next steps.
  • Documentation Compliance Review: Altius Group supports businesses with the policy documentation required for emergency preparedness, pandemic response and an exposure action plan.
  • Work from Home Policy (if applicable): As employers have responsibility for isolated or remote workers, it’s important make sure you are taking care of their home ergonomics set up and make sure they are safe in their home environment. We’re able to provide WHS support to develop Work from Home Policies.
  • WHS Management System and Tools - AltiusWHS: Our compliance management software includes easy to manage tools for COVID-19 reporting. AltiusWHS enables businesses to seamlessly manage the essential component of a workplace safety program with tools to report incidents, report hazards, complete inspections and plan out recurring WHS tasks and actions.
  • WHS: Physical and Environmental Checks: We can work with businesses to ensure, when in contact with external individuals, the right protocols are in place to screen for risk and protect the health and wellbeing of your people. We do this by reviewing client engagement safety screening tools and helping to create checklists to make sure your employees are conducting the right risk assessments.
  • Home Ergonomics Reviews: We conduct home workstation ergonomic assessments via online platforms to make sure employees are set up correctly for work and connect employers to suppliers of ergonomic equipment, who can support businesses during this time.
  • PPE: We’ve heard a lot about PPE lately (face masks, hand sanitiser, gloves) and there’s a lot of mixed messaging out there around the value of these items. We’re able to provide clear, practical advice. We check PPE is Fit for Purpose, guide you as to when and where the use of PPE is required and recommend additional COVID-19 controls relevant to your operations.
Phase 2: Medium to Long Term Complications

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our Physical, Mental and Social wellbeing.

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Safeguarding Employee Mental and Social Health

COVID-19 is presenting many stressors, taking toll on our mental health. Daily media reports, changing family dynamics as we work and study at home, isolation from social networks, a blurring of the lines between work and home life and the financial pressures stemming from reduced work hours or job loss – together create the perfect storm for deteriorating mental health.

Pre COVID-19 mental health was already a huge concern, with 45% of Australians experiencing a significant psychological problem at some point in their lives. We can support our workforce by making sure we can create a psychological supportive work environment – whether employees are home or workplace based.

Businesses need to be considering the mental health impacts and risk we are starting to see and put such things in place as:

  • Having an EAP provider - a confidential counselling service accessible 24/7 for employees to talk with a psychologist about personal or work-related issues.
  • Carrying out mental health checks to check-in on the mental wellbeing of your people (our psychologists can schedule mental health wellbeing calls with at risk workers).
  • Psychological risk assessments – we can arrange these for employees at risk.
  • Taking a preventative approach by building wellbeing programs to connect people and provide education to help individuals care for their mental health.

Safeguarding Employee Physical Health

COVID-19 is impacting the amount we move, what we eat and our sleep. We’re travelling less to and from work, moving less between job sights and less around the workplace. Gyms have shut down and team sports put on hold. With this significant reduction in our level of activity we risk deconditioning, which generally occurs after 6 weeks of reduced activity. It’s important to support our employees to monitor the level of activity they’re doing as deconditioning increases the risk of musculoskeletal injury on return to work.

We may also be gaining weight working from home – from snacking more, due to a change in routine. Our sleep is likely to also be impacted by a lack of routine, eg, sleeping longer due to reduced travel time but staying up later, and our mental health concerns may be impacting our sleep as well.

Altius Group provides solutions to support employees to establish good habits across movement, sleep and nutrition:

  • Digital Wellbeing App AltiusLife: This evidence-based platform is designed to deliver intervention and support around changing habits and setting goals to target the 3 pillars of health – social, mental and physical. The app educates employees and supports personal goal setting as well as a sense of community through group challenges.
  • Aggregated, De-identified Data Collected from AltiusLife: Helps highlight areas of employee interest (while maintaining individual privacy) so we can design wellbeing interventions that speak to them – educating on and addressing direct issues impacting them.
  • Exercise Physiology Support Through Physitrack and TeleHealth: Our Exercise Physiologists prescribe home exercise programs, including specific exercises to aid conditioning required to return to work safely and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury. We also provide health and nutrition advice and education.
Phase 3: Rehabilitation and RTW Coordination

We may see an increase in the number of workers compensation claims being put through, due to additional physical and mental health stressors. There are supports you can put in place to help manage an increase in WC claims:

  • Partnering with a Preferred Rehab Provider: Rehabilitation Services by Altius, can help businesses navigate claims well and ensure that people are supported through the right channels to remain or return to work as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Outsourcing the Return to Work Co-ordinator Role: Altius Group provides RTW Coordinator and complete WHS Consultancy services, to provide businesses with the level of expertise required to minimise further risk in a simple, affordable and hassle free way.
  • Vocational Counselling and Career Transition Support: We understand businesses may need to stand people down. We do recommend businesses have an EAP provider to support people during this transition. We also support managers who are having to have tough conversations through our Manager Assistance Program (MAP). We can also partner with you – so you can extend additional support to those being made redundant, by offering Career Transition Support and Vocational Counselling.

Our team of Work Health and Safety experts are allied health professionals who are able to provide evidence-based solutions to steer your business through this challenging time. All our services are scalable to your business needs – we are here to support business of all sizes, across all industries.