NELLIE BROWN: My name is Nellie Brown. I direct the Workplace Health and Safety program, which is part of the Worker Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell. I am a certified industrial hygienist, so health and safety is what I do for a living.
I always learned growing up in history class that to no army can survive when its supply chain becomes too attenuated. And what we're seeing now is our supplies becoming very attenuated. If we're relying on just-in-time delivery for things that people are not willing to send us because they need it in their own country for the same problem or not making some of these things even in the US or necessary parts in the US. So I think attenuation of the supply chain is something that we'll see some changes to.
And I think something else is I think a greater interest in crisis planning and prevention. I tried to promote that years ago when we had bad influenza problems. And I said, well, let me try to offer a variation of my crisis-planning training that's devoted to just a focus on what a pandemic would mean to your business organization. And yet, I didn't see any interest at that time.
People always seem to say that we don't need to do crisis planning because we'll think on our feet or we'll address the problem when it gets here. The only difficulty is that when it comes to human life and injury, or similarly, damage to the environment as well, you can't plan that thinking on your feet. You have to do advanced planning for that.
I think I'm seeing a little more attention to policies involving sick leave. And I think generally, the whole idea that you need to have people in all types of work have the ability to have sick leave because we don't want people coming to work sick. That's just counterproductive. You spread diseases. Then more people are absent. Productivity goes down. That's not helpful.
I think we're going to pay a lot more attention to the hours that people work and the staffing levels. And I think you're going to see a lot more collective bargaining. A lot of people are seeing that in their line of work, they really need to bargain collectively to get what they need for workplace health and safety. I think the pandemic has brought that into clear focus.
I'd like to kind of sign off by a couple of things. I'd like to say, first of all, social distancing, using a mask, the things we ask people to do, they do work. They really work. When you sneeze or cough, yes, your aerosols really can travel six feet. So please, please do these things. They make a difference, and they make a difference also for the people who are vulnerable and the people in our society for whom their immune systems simply are not going to give them adequate protection and they need to be protected by us.
And I'd also like to say that we're being very isolated, staying at home so much, and not being able to interact with people the way we would like to do. So take care of your stress as well as you try to stay safe and healthy.
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Nellie Brown, an expert on workplace health and safety at Cornell University, predicts the pandemic will result in more interest in strengthening weakened supply chains and in crisis planning. She discusses the need for sick leave for all types of workers, and predicts we’ll see an increase in collective bargaining for safer workplaces. Brown is director of Workplace Health and Safety Programs for the Worker Institute at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.