Balancing acceptable risk – ECU says essential frontline workers have a tough choice
Edith Cowan University (ECU) Associate Professor Erin Smith has posed a question reflective of the dilemma currently being faced by a number of professionals working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, and others considered to be on the frontline of caring for the community – will frontline workers simply stop turning up to work when the balance of protecting themselves and their families clashes with their job role?
“In every country affected by COVID-19, essential frontline workers are currently making the choice between turning up to work and protecting themselves and their families,” the Professor said.
Previous research by Professor Smith clearly indicated that a pandemic was one of the situations that would likely result in decreased willingness to work among paramedics, a core frontline element during the pandemic.
“We have known for some time that essential frontline workers would have difficulty weighing up professional obligation with personal risk when it came to a situation like a pandemic,” Professor Smith said.
She said that despite this obvious ethical dilemma, clarification of acceptable levels of personal risk for many essential frontline personnel such as police officers, those serving the public in retail situations, and those working in the education and care sector is still lacking.
At some point, the Professor continued, those who are frontline workers will “start making their own decisions around what that level of acceptability is in regard to personal risk – and at some point, their job is not worth their health, or that of their family.”
“They will simply decide their job is not worth the risk and stay at home. With supplies of personal protective equipment rapidly dwindling in many parts of Australia, these decisions may start being made sooner rather than later.”