Has your organisation COVIDified its risk management plan?

Written and published by the British Safety Council, India on 28 July 2020.

Most organisations have a risk management plan in place to protect their employees from physical injury and mental harm. However, very few would have imagined that they would have to prepare a risk management plan for a global pandemic. After all, we are dealing with a situation that hasn’t been witnessed in over a hundred years. Organisations now need to reassess and rework their risk management plan to manage the added risks of COVID-19. They need to modify their risk management strategy to incorporate additional steps such as having a COVID risk assessment audit and providing employees with COVID-related safety training. And that might be true for your organisation, too. So when you plan the back-to-office transition for your employees, here are a few key questions you need to answer to COVIDify your risk management strategy.

Have you performed a thorough COVID risk assessment audit?

Before reopening your workplace to your employees, you need to identify the risks that your employees might be exposed to. There is a high risk of viral transmission through physical contact with infected individuals and infected shared surfaces. There is also a high risk of COVID transmission if employees don’t wear protective equipment like face masks during their office commute or at the workplace. Hence, while performing a COVID risk assessment audit, you should take the following factors into account:

  • Work location
  • Work activities
  • Working hours
  • Employee seating arrangements
  • Current government guidelines

Based on these factors, you should ask the following questions:

  • Where can people come into direct, close contact with others within the workplace?
  • What are the shared, potentially contaminated surfaces, equipment, and materials?
  • Which workplace activities increase the likelihood of transmission?

The answers to these questions will help you identify high-risk areas that can aggravate viral transmission. You will then be able to create a risk management plan that can help you manage the associated risks. This COVID risk assessment audit can be carried out internally or you can enlist an experienced and reputed organisation to conduct a COVID risk assessment audit and create a risk management plan for your organisation.

Do you have control measures to ensure your employees’ safety?

To ensure that employees can resume work without the fear of contracting COVID, employers should implement appropriate control measures.

These control measures can be divided into two categories:

The first category includes the control measures you need to adopt leading up to re-opening of the workplace. This can include having your office space inspected and sanitised thoroughly before allowing your employees to resume their normal operations. Additionally, you can collect health assessment reports from your employees beforehand. You need to ensure that no employee currently has symptoms related to COVID. Similarly, if any of your employees did previously have symptoms, you should ensure that they have completed the self-quarantine period. If you have employees that currently show symptoms of COVID or have not completed their quarantine period, ensure that they are not allowed to work from the office. Additionally, you should refrain from asking employees to return to the office who reside in a containment zone.

The second set of control measures are to be adopted in the workplace once employees resume work from the office. This includes acting on the risks identified in the COVID risk assessment audit. You will need to implement restrictions related to employee movement within the workplace and ensure that social distancing is maintained between individuals. You also need to ensure that employees wear personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves during work hours.

Is there a plan to ensure that the control measures are implemented correctly?

You need to ensure that your employees implement control measures wholeheartedly. For that, you need to monitor their activities at work strictly. Even a little recklessness can lead to highly negative consequences. It can endanger the lives of multiple employees. To ensure that employees are adhering to the guidelines, you can periodically communicate with your employees about the seriousness of COVID. Remind them of their duties and the actual threat the coronavirus poses. If certain employees aren’t following the rules, take serious action against them. Make the fight against COVID a part of the company culture. A basic plan to ensure that control measures are implemented correctly should include:

  • Monitoring of employees’ activities periodically
  • Communicating with employees at regular intervals
  • Providing safety equipment, such as hand sanitisers and gloves, to employees

Have you considered providing COVID-related health and safety training to employees?

A COVID-related health and safety training program can help improve awareness regarding the disease among the employees. It can also help in causing a positive behavioural change in the workplace, thereby ensuring that employees stay safe not only at the workplace but outside of it, too. You can contact a reputed organisation such as the British Safety Council that can provide specialised training and guidance related to COVID. The training program includes practices related to personal hygiene, workplace cleanliness, and the correct methods of using PPE.

Are you reviewing and revising plans as necessary?

Creating and implementing a risk management plan is not enough. It would be best if you also ensured that the risk management plan is working as intended. But what if it doesn’t? Do you have a plan B? These are some of the questions that you need to answer. If your COVID management plan is not working correctly, you must either review and revise it quickly or implement another plan to ensure workplace safety.

In addition to quick revisions and additional backup plans, you should also keep yourself updated with the latest government regulations. The coronavirus is still a mystery to us, and we are trying to fight it by making new changes to our personal and professional lives. Thus, you must be highly adaptable to the new regulations that might be passed by the authorities on a regular basis.

We are all aware of the threat posed by the COVID pandemic. As we attempt to resume workplace operations, it becomes our topmost priority to ensure employee health and safety. And creating a COVID risk assessment audit and management plan is the first step towards achieving that.

A COVID-19 risk assessment and these measures are only the beginning of your efforts to stop the pandemic. You may need to implement other control measures to address risk factors that may be specific to your industry or organisation. But planning and implementing all the COVID-19 prevention measures can be challenging. You can, therefore, avail expert COVID-19 assurance consulting from the British Safety Council for guidance on your risk assessment and mitigation planning efforts. You can visit our website or contact us for any further consultation and support on workplace health and safety.