OHS Canada Magazine

Burnt out? Tips on protecting yourself through COVID-19

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October 5, 2020
By Christopher Hurley

Health & Safety Human Resources COVID-19 Mental Health safety

Monitoring your own mental health is critical at this time

The workload for OH&S professionals hasn’t gotten any lighter through the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Christopher Hurley. (Orbon Alija/Getty Images)

Regardless of your vocation, we are all officially neck deep in workplace pandemic management.

COVID-19 has presented unique and unprecedented challenges in maintaining safe workplaces across Canada.

The good news is, across the board, Canada has fared far better than many other nations. That success has been driven by the efforts of everyone from public health officials to safety professionals to each and every person that ventures out into this strange new world we find ourselves in. Like most successes, it’s due to a total team effort!

It requires buy-in from all parties and engagement all the way down to the individual. So remember, this isn’t all on just you!

Managing the pandemic workload

From navigating PPE supplies, new program implementation, temperature checks, training (and retraining), life and overall workload certainly has not gotten any easier.


Even managing the pandemic “rules” (which are primarily loose guidelines), from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and company to company, is sometimes vastly different in the way they have been applied.

And there’s even dissension amongst some who believe the pandemic risks are far less than what public health officials might be theorizing.

I can only imagine that this was what asbestos workers went through in the late ’90s. It can be frustrating to some, but it’s important to stay focused on one absolute — this hazard is no different than any other hazard in the workplace.

To borrow a common safety pro saying:  Plan, Do, Check, Act. Through all this, we have to keep an eye on the most important person — and contrary to what you might think, that person is you.

As safety professionals — or others with safety as a key performance metric — can profess to, the increased workload has been a challenge. Especially when it would be wholeheartedly irresponsible to take our eyes off of the other hazards in our workplace.

As with all hazards, you need a program, implementation, resources and check and balances to make the circle of safety complete.

As someone responsible for safety, you’re doing this on many other topics, all the time, so you’re built to handle this. How do you best approach this new undertaking all the while keeping yourself sane and your life balanced?

Don’t overwhelm yourself with COVID management

We have been bombarded with relentless media on the topic and it’s physically and emotionally draining. Do your best to limit overall news intake as it can be overwhelming, especially when you’re swimming in the COVID ocean all day, Monday to Friday.

In my opinion, the dust has settled on much of the confusion on proper protection measures we navigated in March, April and May. Although clarity will help once instituted, these processes take people power to make it work.

If you need help, ask for it

I have worked in environments where the level of stress was very high, resources were thin, and you had to do the best with what you have. That doesn’t mean that you’re set up for success, and it doesn’t mean you don’t need help.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your management and others to do their part and help out. Whether it’s additional safety support to manage paperwork, extra training or on-the-floor management, ask for it.

Implement COVID champions on your site or shop floor to have extra eyes looking out for opportunities for improvement. Streamline paperwork wherever possible; many sites that have obtained COR certification are now using iPads for inspections and checklists. Push for these tools! They save time, money and hassle.

Maintain a proper work-life balance

Safety pros are often the types of people that will jump in with both feet to a challenge and hang in until every aspect of the issue is resolved. Although we feel compelled to, don’t try and be everything to everyone. As one person, you are only capable of so much, so prioritize stress relief, set aside time for fun personal activities and maintain positivity.

If you are struggling, talk to someone. A friend, co-worker or family member is always a great resource to talk about your struggles. If you are fortunate enough to have a family assistance provider with access to counselling, don’t be too proud to take advantage of it! These are extremely helpful resources that can put you in contact with trained professionals on many topics.

In Canada, we are all reaping the benefits of the focus and hard work in regards to COVID-19. Don’t let that success be overshadowed with burnout.

Christopher Hurley is the founder of Safety Services Canada, a multi-functional health and safety consulting firm located in Caledonia, Ont.

This Hot Topic column appears in the September/October issue of OHS Canada.


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