- Crisis and emergency risk communication (CERC) is an evidence-based framework that OSH professionals can use for successful risk communication to mitigate harm to people, property and the environment.
- OSH professionals must introspectively reflect on lessons learned from previous emergencies and evaluate how circumstances inform the outcomes of risk communication.
- Misinformation is not a new phenomenon, but it is a challenge that can be anticipated and addressed through timely, credible and transparent information provided by OSH professionals.
- OSH professionals play a critical role in the preparation and execution of CERC in the workplace for all emergencies, including serious injuries and fatalities, extreme weather events and infectious disease outbreaks.
While many OSH professionals likely grow weary of discussing matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic, this public health crisis made more apparent than ever before the obligation of OSH professionals to provide subject matter expertise and effective risk communication practices to all organizations. The newly presented hazard was microscopic, only visible through symptomatic response, and a change of pace from the more easily seen, and arguably more easily managed, occupational hazards such as working at elevated heights or confined spaces. As the primary source of information related to occupational risk management in many organizations, OSH professionals found themselves in a position of needing to communicate risk and manage organizational processes to mitigate harm to people and property, even as the hazard and potential risks were largely unknown (Loon, 2020).
However, the concept of risk communication during crises and emergencies is not new, and OSH professionals can do well to use evidence-based frameworks such as the crisis and emergency risk communication (CERC) framework presented by the CDC (2018a) to better prepare for effective risk communication practices in any emergency in which they find themselves. The CERC framework helps create communication plans that establish who will speak and to whom they will speak, and ensure that communication is timely, credible and promotes appropriate action (CDC, 2018b). The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for OSH professionals to reflect on lessons learned, identify gaps in current risk communication processes and establish plans for organizational success in the future.