The Monthly Weekly: As the Pandemic Evolves, Priorities Shift
Editor’s note: The Monthly Weekly is an occasional feature that reviews the previous month’s news coverage from The Synergist Weekly newsletter.
As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of research and related efforts is shifting. Around this time last year, workplaces across the country were navigating how to safely reopen and operate during the ongoing pandemic. Now, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and others have shifted their efforts to focus more on issues such as addressing healthcare worker burnout, protecting vulnerable workers, meeting the respiratory protection needs of the public, and encouraging vaccination against COVID-19.
Here, SynergistNOW provides highlights of recent developments in these areas.
Respiratory protection for the public. A report released earlier this month by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) calls for extending respiratory protection to the public and to workers not currently covered by relevant OSHA requirements. The report’s recommendations “will require action at the highest levels of government” to provide respiratory protection to the entire United States population, according to Dr. Jonathan Samet, chair of the NAS committee that developed the report.
Protecting vulnerable workers. A virtual seminar held in January gathered speakers from disparate industries to discuss the challenges of keeping vulnerable workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers included first responders, construction workers, teachers’ advocates, a high school principal, representatives from labor organizations, and other experts. Moderated by occupational and environmental health and safety professionals, the sessions addressed emergency response, education, the gig economy, and agriculture and construction.
Healthcare worker burnout. A new resource launched by the National Academy of Medicine is intended to highlight strategies and tools that can be used to help decrease healthcare worker burnout and improve the well-being of clinicians. The “Resource Compendium for Healthcare Worker Well-Being” features resources in six areas of focus: advancing organizational commitment, strengthening leadership behaviors, conducting workplace assessments, examining policies and practices, enhancing workplace efficiency, and cultivating a culture of connection and support.
OHS programs in healthcare. In response to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization jointly published a new guide for improved occupational health and safety programs in the healthcare industry titled Caring for Those Who Care: Guide for the Development and Implementation of Occupational Health and Safety Programmes for Healthcare Workers.
Encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations for miners. A pilot program announced by MSHA in late January is intended to encourage and facilitate coronavirus vaccinations for miners and their communities. The Miner Vaccination Outreach Program will deliver free COVID-19 vaccinations and provide educational outreach on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines to mining communities in Kentucky and Arizona, where several mining operations are located and vaccination rates are low.
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