The race to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the community while mitigating its economic effect continues to occupy the attention of corporate leaders. Indeed, the nature of this epidemic – that it is a fluid, ongoing catastrophe rather than a one-time occurrence – necessitates tremendous agility and inventiveness on the part of business owners. However, by debating the prospect of people working from home and the implications for supply networks, they are wasting crucial time in planning their recovery. Despite the fact that businesses are presently in the reaction phase, it is not too early to begin planning for the recovery phase.
Much is still unknown about the coronavirus and its economic consequences. Will the recovery be a relatively brief return to normalcy, or will the epidemic cause a worldwide recession? As the situation evolves and business continuity plans for prevention and reaction become more prevalent, it is critical that business leaders focus some emphasis now on how they will restore to full capacity.
Run new risk assessments
Given the uncertainty inherent to this pandemic – transmissibility and seasonality, for example – it is critical that companies re-run any risk assessment that they have in place, using three different scenarios:
- 1-2 months of circulating virus and a short-term financial impact to your business
- More than 2 months of viral impact and a global economic slowdown
- A far-reaching pandemic and sustained global recession
The risk evaluation should begin with a focus on key company activities, particularly people. Each scenario’s human, financial, technological, and operational ramifications should be well understood. For example, within food industry, businesses should guarantee that all assets are fully sterilised during the recovery process in order to proactively handle any worries about product contamination. And they should be prepared to prove it, therefore avoiding public scepticism or terror.
These are distinct from any impact assessments during the response phase, and thus should be run as a separate exercise.
Examine operational hazards as well as asset integrity.
There are hazards inherent in start-up during any unexpected shutdown; in fact, process safety events are five times more likely to occur during start-up than during regular operations. To reduce such risks, a comprehensive restart assessment of all key hazards should be performed prior to restart to maintain the integrity of all assets and processes. Policies and procedures should be revised and well recorded. Some of the assets were most likely not maintained on time, therefore they should be thoroughly examined in line with all lockout/tagout protocols, and any maintenance work done before starting up.
Use the down time productively
As activities slow or come to a halt, there is a potential to use home-bound employees to enhance your operations’ readiness for the recovery phase. They can evaluate contractor preparation and potentially onboard additional freelancers for the rush of work during start-up; develop start-up checklists; perform personnel planning, and determine how to staff the scaleup of operations. It is also an excellent opportunity to teach employees on how to better manage and mitigate operational risk by using virtual training or related eLearning programmes.
Focus on external communication
If your business has been impacted by the virus – whether through an affected employee, proven transmission in the workplace, an ordered quarantine, or even a perception that the business has not performed enough – there may be some reputational harm. As a result, proactive efforts should be implemented to reassure all consumers, stakeholders, community members, and the general public. External audiences want to know what happened, what mitigating measures were implemented, and how the business can assure that they will be able to produce on time. By demonstrating that the business is “fully operational,” it reassures employees, communities, and investors, therefore contributing to the overall economic development.
For more information visit: https://www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/operating-at-alert-levels/