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Do you have a health and safety policy for your workplace? 

What about a plan for managing an emergency or a serious incident? 

Did you know that your business is legally obliged to be prepared for, and have a plan on what to do after, an emergency or disaster? 

An emergency plan forms part of your health and safety requirements.

Every business has a legal obligation to be prepared for an emergency.  How you do that will depend entirely on your business: the industry, size, structure.  There is no obligation to have this written down, or to have a high-level of detail, but the more prepared you are for any situation, the better your chances of recovery are.

So how do you plan for the unknown?  Or, to make it more relevant to current events, what needs to be covered in an emergency plan when the emergency has already happened and you’re looking at “going back to normal”?

We’ve discussed this before in the context of a business continuity plan, but let’s break down the stages of emergency management.

Prevent, Prepare, Respond, Recover

Stage 1: Prevent.  This is the risk management phase.  By the process of identifying the key activities of your business and the risks to those, you can prevent or mitigate the impact of any incident.  This should form part of your annual health and safety planning.

Stage 2: Prepare.  This is your business impact analysis. Whatever the risks to your organisation are, how you prepare here will make or potentially break you under duress. 

Stage 3: Respond.  When a significant event or incident occurs, this is the phase you move into in order to secure your business. Using the risks identified in stage 1, you implement the plan you made in preparation for any event.  It’s how you put all of your practice and modelling into play.  From the deployment of staff to the distribution of your communications plans and everything in between.  It is the stage of incident management to minimise the long-term impact of risk upon the business.

Here is where you adapt to the environment and work on your final phase

Stage 4: Recover.

Recovery is defined as the return to the state of business prior to the incident.  Part of your planning for business continuity should include setting recovery time objectives (RTO) to return to business as usual, as quickly as possible with minimal interference and disruption.

Pandemic management adds an extra level of detail to a recovery plan, but it doesn’t need to be complicated.  By utilising the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, you can very easily adapt your planning to meet your health and safety obligations with clearly outlined processes that every member of your team can follow.

Key things to consider:

Recovery may be a long-term process so be sure to set out your short, medium and long-term recovery phases.  Plan for not being able to return to your place of work at full capacity for several months.  What does that look like?  Is it feasible?  Can staff work remotely or on split-shifts? 

If you are a hospitality or retail business – or any other public facing organisation, how would you implement contact tracing?  What about social-distancing management?  At what alert level, would you be able to reopen?  How long can you continue to keep staff on your payroll, if you are not able to operate at full capacity?

Be sure to consider protocols for staff to undertake re: health and safety / self- quarantine, isolation, minimisation of transmission and exposure to infection.  For example, clarification of a requirement to obtain medical certification before returning to work after illness.

Follow MOH and Employment NZ guidelines wherever possible and seek professional guidance if you are uncertain.

Now, consider:

  • What is the plan for?
  • Will you need to document it and if so, who will read it?
  • What are your main messages and what is the best way to get them across?   
  • How will you share the plan with your workers?

Once again, you are not obligated to have your plan in writing. But there is very definite merit to doing this.

When you have clearly defined processes in place and can measure your objectives, it becomes easier to track progress or to review and refine things as needed.

If you’re unsure on where to start with your emergency planning, Get in touch

Contact Number: 021 079 6325 | Email: sel@leighdevelopment.co.nz