Private Businesses Introducing Chief Health Officers, Another New COVID Norm?
Updated: Aug 28
As the words COVID-19, Coronavirus and Pandemic became part of our regular vocabulary in 2020, so too did the integral need for businesses to implement policies to protect staff and customers from health risks in order to protect their businesses.
The federal Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy became an all-too familiar face to Australians after fronting up to multiple press conferences before his deputy, Dr Nick Coatsworth stepped into the role.
This role both at a federal and state level has proved integral to the countries handling of COVID-19, being the backbone of policy making and the go-to at press conferences for clarifying the nations concerns surrounding the virus. Offering much needed guidance and clarifying medical jargon into terms we as citizens can digest and grapple with.
However, unlike the temporary virus we were expecting to suffer through, this pandemic has bled into daily lives for months and months now, very much becoming the world’s new normal. So it was somewhat unsurprising and yet alarmingly ‘2020’ when Woolworths declared they would appoint their own Chief Medical Officer into their business this year.
Woolworths stated that it is common place for businesses that pose health risks to have a Chief Medical Adviser/Officer as part of their staff and they believe many other businesses will follow suit. Dr McCartney, the new CMA states “A lot of this is driven by COVID-19, but the value proposition existed before COVID.”
Further adding, ‘‘If you are not getting proper advice from a chief medical officer, how do you know if you are not exposed to liabilities in the health and safety areas?’’
Globally, a study by Wunderman Thompson Data found that “89% of Americans believe the government alone cannot stop the spread of coronavirus and that companies have a responsibility to help” (Wunderman & Thompson, The Future 100 Update, 2020). Will this expectation from American citizens be akin to the views of Australians as well? Already in the US it has been widely observed that large companies have began taking policy into their own hands when it comes to implementing COVID-safety amongst their staff. Jeff Bezos stated in April that Amazon had commenced building a COVID-19 testing lab for its employees.
In China, Sephora have implemented 2-hourly store sanitisation and package disinfectant at checkouts to further display and take action against virus transmission in their stores (Wunderman & Thompson, 2020)