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Challenges and opportunities for occupational health and safety after the COVID-19 lockdowns
  1. Lode Godderis1,2,
  2. Jeroen Luyten3,4
  1. 1 Environment and Health, KU Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2 IDEWE, External Service for Prevention and Protection at Work, Heverlee, Belgium
  3. 3 Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy, KU Leuven, Belgium
  4. 4 Personal Social Services Research Unit, London School of Economics & Political Science, England, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Lode Godderis, Centre for Environment and Health, K.U. Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; lode.godderis{at}

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Now that many countries are implementing ‘exit strategies’ from the containment measures, the health impact related to COVID-19, stress and isolation will become clear. However, there is a second wave of potential health consequences threatening us. According to economists, a worldwide economic recession is to be expected. We can therefore expect a change in the various health problems associated to a negative economic growth and its impact on employment.1 2 It is in this expected second part that occupational health and safety (OHS) can play an important role. By providing advice to workers and enterprises in creating safe employment and new, attractive ways of working, they can help in mitigating the health impact of a recession.

What can be learnt from previous recessions? There is no clear answer. Recessions cause a mix of both positive and negative effects, on both morbidity and mortality. Moreover, these effects can be expected to differ in between socioeconomic groups.

On the one hand, recessions have an adverse impact in terms of the health and well-being of the population. Unemployment and job uncertainty negatively influence self-esteem, stress and mental health, as well physical health. The number of suicides and overdose deaths is higher during economic crises.3 There will be fewer …

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed to conceptualising the idea and preparing the draft of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.