Since that time, F1 Racing managed to continue for almost 12 years without a single fatality. Even from the 80s until today, the world has seen only 11 additional F1 fatalities – a quarter of the deaths from the 1950s to the 1970s. Stewart’s accident was indeed a watershed safety moment for the F1 racing world.
From One Watershed to Another
In the last two decades, in fact, the world has seen five pandemics. In chronological order these include: the SARS outbreak (2002–04), the swine flu pandemic (2009), the MERS coronavirus outbreak (2012), the Zika virus epidemic (2015–16), and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rate at which pandemics have broken out in the 21st century is alarming. Epidemics like these not only damage businesses but also put the lives of employees at risk. COVID-19 is a tragic example of the ruthless adversary the world is up against. Drawing parallels with F1, 2020 must now be our watershed moment to transform workplace safety and find sustainable ways of running businesses in pandemics.
Workplace Safety Underpins Return-to-Work
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- This pandemic has cost Boeing $1.7 billion in total. $137 million of that comes from a shutdown that happened at one of its South Carolina plants!
- Ninety-seven employees were infected with COVID-19 in late June ’20 at a US-based aluminum extrusion company. Similarly, a greenhouse in Madison County witnessed 128 workers with COVID-19 infection.
- Auto manufacturers in the US continue to witness an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. E.g., 20 cases recorded at a Ford plant.
- With schools reopening, Los Angeles schools have announced massive COVID-19 testing and tracing initiatives for its students and staff.
If there was ever a do-or-die time that could help speed up digital adoption for a safer workplace, it’s now. Organizations need use technology to build an effective return-to-work strategy and stay sustainable.
A four-step digital approach – Prevent, Avoid, Detect, and Respond to return-to-work – will help organizations combat the impact of COVID-19. Governments in many countries have already drafted return-to-work compliance regulations for many organizations. While these are incredibly detailed and well crafted, companies need to stop treating them as mere checklists or another tick in the box.
Strategies, Not Regulations, Are the Solution
When Jackie Stewart began his crusade for driver safety in the 60s and 70s in F1, some of the racing community felt his tirade detracted from the sport and escalated organizers’ costs.
But expecting stringent regulations and compliance measures alone to guide organizations forward is unfair. As part of industry’s broader responsibility, it’s time for companies themselves to forge a way ahead and proactively build safety nets to combat the viral menace.
There will be challenges, both financial and operational, that will discourage companies from adopting new technologies and processes. Even Jackie Stewart faced a lot of resistance and derision as he advocated for driver safety in F1. But organizations must find a way to navigate these challenges to prepare themselves for the long haul. If they don’t act now, they are making themselves vulnerable to future pandemics.