With most sectors now reopening following the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown measures, we may be lulled into a false sense of security and believe that the worst is behind us. However, with the uncertainty that still surrounds this virus, now is not the time to become complacent.
Local lockdowns caused by concentrated flare-ups of new cases, plus the possibility of a second spike in future months, remain a real possibility that we must be alert to.
Our risk management partner WorkNest advise that now is the time to plan.
With potential threats on the horizon, it is important to plan for worse-case scenarios. If you haven’t already, now is the time to look at developing or reviewing the business continuity plan or, as a bare minimum, ask yourself “what are we going to do and how are we going to achieve this?”
A robust health and safety management system should ensure appropriate arrangements are in place to identify and protect employees from foreseeable risks and that includes planning for all eventualities, especially those that may have a catastrophic impact on business operations.
Business Continuity Plans
A business continuity plan is a key document in enabling a business to meet its critical functions while it is in a state of flux, until normal or new-normal operating conditions can be achieved. The plan should provide the information needed to help assess and then act should an incident happen.
In short, the plan should cover:
- The notification of an incident;
- The management of the business’s response; and
- The return to normal business afterwards.
Invoking the plan then starts the agreed and tested recovery strategy. Some companies rent empty office space and have it on standby; some have dual data centres with applications replicating data to servers in another location. The solution depends on the business’s requirements and the budget you have/wish to spend on it.
Reflection and review
We have learnt a lot of new information on infection control and how to put control measures in place to limit its spread. It is now important to review how effective these controls have been and what we could look to improve and build on. Some questions to ask include:
- What are our critical processes and how do we continue to perform these in another lockdown? (Think about deadlines you have; can you keep them?)
- Who are critical employees, and can they work remotely? If not, how can we achieve that?
- If critical staff have to attend site, is the site safe for them and are health and safety measures adequate?
- Can we communicate with staff? (You might need to get up-to date contact numbers, set up a WhatsApp group, etc.)
Ensuring you have resources in place
Were supplies of toilet paper an issue? It can be funny to look back now and see the effects of demands on a resource, but this is something that needs to be considered. Do we have enough resources in place to deal with a potential issue with suppliers? Could we deal with a lack of resources? Do we have enough stock in place to deal with exceptional demand?
Look at your suppliers. If you need to ensure that they can support a critical requirement, then check that the supplier has a business continuity plan and that they can get the resource from other providers if necessary.
Testing and training
Just as we have fire drills to ensure that the fire evacuation plan works, and everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency, it is now key to ensure that any plans you put in place regarding COVID-19 worst-case scenarios are effective.
Train your staff so that everyone knows what your strategy is and what their individual responsibilities are.
Test your solution and fine-tune it now. Unlike March’s lockdown, businesses now have advanced warning and time to prepare, so make the most of this time and give yourself the best possible chance of emerging in a positive position.
More advice and support
WorkNest provide a coronavirus advice hub, which contains even more useful information and guidance relating to Health and Safety and Employment Law. It is free to use; all you need to do is register. Please choose “Towergate Risk Management” as your answer to the question “Which WorkNest partner are you currently a member of?”
About the author
Simon Broome SIIRSM Tech IOSH has over 25 years' experience around risk management, honed through his industry background and working on operating software and management systems
Read health and safety articles by Simon
- Health & Safety Bulletin - April 2019: HSE Intervention Enforcement Notices on the Increase
- Health & Safety Bulletin - April 2019: Notre Dame Blase Highlights Risk of "Hot Works"
- Health & Safety Bulletin - May 2019: Recent Spate of Fires Caused by Electrical Faults Suggests Businesses Need to Check Electrical Systems
- Risk Bulletin - Health & Safety Competent Person
- Risk Alert – Why is it So Important to Have a Business Continuity Plan?
- Business Continuity Planning
The information contained in this bulletin is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. If you wish to discuss your specific requirements, please do not hesitate to contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers adviser.
For more information or for a full review of your insurance needs, please contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers adviser or email TIB@towergate.co.uk.