Safety In Paradise: Protecting Workers During A Pandemic
Company: University of the Virgin Islands, Safety in Paradise (SIP)
Location: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (U.S)
2020 was a year of continuous change. However, if it taught the U.S. Virgin Islands anything, it is that they have the ability to adapt. Adapt is what the Virgin Islands Safety In Paradise (SIP) OSHA Consultation Program did as COVID-19 surfaced and shut down services and businesses across the nation.
Faced with concerns of the pandemic, the SIP Consultation program had to think differently at a time when “social distancing” had become the new normal. The Consultation program also faced additional challenges with its small staff. It strategically capitalized on the use of technology and turned to virtual platforms to provide services across the territory during the travel restrictions.
The Consultation program also collaborated with local organizations such as the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center and the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority to offer online seminars and guidance while on lockdown. The program reached out to employers through online ads, the U.S. Virgin Islands Consortium, and local group webpages.
These efforts resulted in five online community seminars from April to June 2020, covering topics such as safely reopening after COVID-19, applicable standards for infectious diseases, contingency planning for operations during a pandemic, and recordkeeping of COVID-19 cases. Participants included schools, childcare centers, resorts, medical supply warehouses, and medical and dental offices and clinics. The participants were concerned about protecting their workers and avoiding the spread of the virus in such a small community.
Since in-person visits were restricted, the Consultation program offered virtual meetings for employers to discuss COVID-19 contingency plans, evaluate hazards, develop written programs, and provide online training sessions. The program participated in four radio interviews in both English and Spanish to provide immediate answers to community concerns and promote the program’s recognition among local employers. Thanks to technology and the program’s efforts, the SIP Consultation program saw higher visibility, more engagement, and an increase in attendance for virtual sessions compared with previous in-person sessions. Technology and marketing support were key to allowing SIP Consultation to reach a broad audience with limited staff.
The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories, with priority given to high hazard worksites. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards and how to fix them, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, train and educate workers, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from OSHA enforcement efforts and do not result in penalties or citations. To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation program nearest you, call 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit https://www.osha.gov/Consultation