The Roadmap To A COVID-19 Secure Workplace
A guest post by my colleague Tony Foster ...
POSTED BY ELLEN WILLOUGHBY ON 11/06/2020 @ 8:00AM
This week I hand over my blog post to my colleague Tony Foster, who has has a wealth of experience in engineering and operations. He's talking about how to create a secure workplace in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Over to you Tony ...
ISO 9001 is based upon identifying and mitigating risk; business continuity planning in the face of COVID-19 is very much a part of that!
copyright: lightwise / 123rf
Recently I was asked to write a business continuity plan for a company. Having pulled together what I thought was a comprehensive list of possible disaster scenarios and submitted it for review, I realised in hindsight that it failed to include disease or epidemic.
"Who could have foreseen this pandemic?"
There have been previous similar recent pandemics such as SARS in 2003, and it had been predicted that at some point another Coronavirus would jump species. But nobody was ready for the speed, contagion rate and deadliness of COVID-19; we largely remained disbelieving that it could happen here even as the Wuhan disaster was unfolding.
I'm happy to say that my business continuity plan does now include disease and epidemic. For many of the other disaster scenarios I'd written in, for example, loss of site, there were proposed mitigating but as yet untested actions, such as working from home.
Untested, until now that is! The pandemic has enabled many of us to enact mitigating actions in order for businesses to continue operating in the face of a real disaster; actions which might otherwise never have been tested out.
Thankfully, the technology was there already to enable homeworking, which has become a feature of this pandemic. Homeworking doesn't help with the operations bit in the middle, of course, be that warehousing or production, but it takes care of the front and back ends.
Factors such as social distancing would not have figured in any previous business continuity plans and have proved much more difficult to work with where home working really is not an option.
When COVID-19 lockdown restrictions came into force in the UK, I was asked by the same company to help them work on a protocol for safe working during the pandemic. The sales, purchasing and accounts staff could work from home as their IT system was already well developed for remote access. But they also wanted their production and warehousing operation to continue working throughout the duration of lockdown!
As an organisation that works to ISO 45001, the standard for Occupational Health & Safety management, the company are totally committed to the safety of all workers. Just as any worker should be entitled to go to work and feel completely safe against injury, disease or dangerous occurrences, there should be the same expectation with COVID-19.
Except it is not the same, because it is new, highly contagious, not well understood, and therefore requires a different set of rules. The company recognised this and could see how disruptive any occurrence of COVID-19 in the workplace would be. I was privileged to work with them on developing safe working practices and it was all completely new- long before any government guidelines on COVID-19 safe working practices were published.
The approach I used was to work with a pandemic preparedness plan based on World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) best practice recommendations. The management of prevention of Covid-19 contagion in the workplace was to focus on three areas: regular cleaning, personal hygiene and social distancing.
From this, a risk assessment was conducted to include:
I then produced the protocol for a Covid-19 secure workplace to define how the company would control each of the above to mitigate risks, together with supporting documentation required for implementation.
I'm happy to say that the protocol was implemented and to date has been a great success. Fortunately, the factory layout has been such that social distancing can be accommodated. Most office staff currently work from home, but even they are encouraged to self-screen daily for COVID-19 by taking their temperature to ensure it is below 38°C.
None of these actions can affect the level of business in the current climate; for most businesses, this has been adverse and the future remains uncertain. But the ability to carry on in the face of a disaster, which is after all the purpose of a business continuity plan, does mean that damage is mitigated so far as is practicable.
If you would like to make sure that your business is protected through adopting a Covid-19 secure workplace based on a simple risk assessment and a set of straightforward operating procedures, then talk to us now. We believe that it is important not only for employees to feel safe, but also for employers to feel safe in the knowledge that they have done all within their power to keep Covid-19 out of the workplace.
"If you don't already have one, why don't you let us help you with a business continuity plan?"
As the pandemic has shown, you never quite know what is going to come out of the blue. ISO 9001 is based upon identifying and mitigating risk; business continuity planning is very much a part of that.
Thanks to my colleague Tony Foster for the great insights!
Until next time ...
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About Ellen Willoughby ...
I'm Ellen, Director of All About Quality and All About Productivity. I have over 20 years experience as professional in the quality world and 17 years as a practising Buddhist. As a result of this, I have a passion for improvement. in both business and personal life.
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