“Well, I did observe (checks notes…) ‘The greatest risks you face are found with the undefined – with the trends that have not yet occurred…’” – Futurist Jim Carroll
No, I certainly did not predict the pandemic.
I couldn’t help but be aware of the commentary of Bill Gates and others who were alerting the world to the greatest of risks, but it was not something that I ever presumed or imagined could actually happen.
But today, I look back at my talk to the National Safety Council last September – a room full of 3,000 workplace occupational health and safety professionals – and wonder now about the unique, complex and bizarre circumstances they now find themselves coping with as they try to manage the safety of a workplace in these crazy times.
Before I went on stage last fall, my daily quote that morning alluded to a future of unknown risks and issues as perhaps the biggest safety risk of all – and I then end up using that observation in the form of my quote while on stage. (This is an easy throwaway prediction for a futurist – predict something unknown, and it’s bound to happen!)
Here’s the clip:
And so, here we are in 2020, with dramatic, challenging and deadly new workplace issues that occupational health and safety professionals must manage that they probably never imagined they would face! And you! You might be faced with a demand to return to work with a leader who has no empathy, no concern in their soul for your worry, and no action that comforts you as to the safety of your surroundings.
Welcome to your future.
Think of the complexity of the issues as companies try to return to normal, people go back to work, and a silent, deadly killer lurks about in that very same workspace. Since it seems only a few people are fans of facts and reality these days, let’s consider those facts. (If you think Covid-19 came from 5G, well, maybe go climb a cell tower somewhere and bellow at the moon. Or something.)
First and foremost, Covid-19 and the workplace risk it presents are not going away any time soon. Already, there are signs that an early return in the US and elsewhere is causing a ‘second wave.’ Early, unneccessary workplace returns will only increase that challenge.
Second is the timing of the science. Even with all the hand washing and surface disinfecting and social distancing – Covid-19 lurks about and it will live with us until such time as there is a vaccine. And despite the media reports, that won’t happen crazy fast.
Third, many organizations and people seem to be actively pursuing a path of accepting accelerated risk simply out of some odd and ill informed desire to ‘get things back to normal.’ We seem to be caught in a world in which many just wish this thing would go away : you hear them around you; “I’ve had enough,” “I’m done with it,” “It’s time to move on.” That’s a nice sentiment, but the science of a virus has no respect for your desires.
Fourth is the behaviour of many of these people as they choose to live a ‘Covid-promiscuous‘ life, with behaviours that will put your very health — and life — at risk. Your new normal is that you must now return to a workplace risk in which you will have to work in close proximity to those people, who because of this ill-fated desire, basically don’t give a damn about you. They go out in the world without practicing social distancing, don’t sanitize or practice good disinfecting hygiene, or immerse themselves in crowds because ‘they are sick of it.’
Fifth is the legal situation. Companies are seeking a sort of blanket immunity legislation that will guard them against future lawsuits related to the return to work and Covid-19. What will this lead to? A weakening of safety protocols – in the absence of standards and defined expectations, companies can literally get away with murder.
So your future? You are now at risk because of the behaviour of others around you – and quite frankly, many of them simply don’t give a shit about you.
Welcome to 2020.