COVID-19 can be called the mother of all disasters of the current age. Though every decade has seen a new deadly virus affecting the human population and causing deaths, nothing has spread so fast and to such an extent as COVID-19. The fact that even asymptomatic carriers are highly contagious makes the disease all the more lethal and harder to contain under normal circumstances! The disease has consumed nearly the entire 2020 and countries are still being forced to weigh health considerations against that of economic well-being.
Prolonged shutdowns have turned even the best continuity, disaster recovery, and emergency plans obsolete. Simply put, every business leader is gearing up for what we’re now calling ‘The Next Normal’.
While there is no clarity on when this pandemic will end, there is no doubt that enterprises have to restart operations, but must do so by bringing health and safety to the forefront of office reopening plans.
Health and safety leaders will have to drive a cultural shift – across the company – to deal with this pandemic effectively. A proactive approach over the reactive must be established across all levels of the organization. They need to adopt technological enhancements and be prepared to undergo a digital transformation to initiate and follow through on new health and safety procedures.
Deloitte recently published a note on Resilient Leadership. The article focuses on how leaders must redesign systems and processes from the heart. It also talks about how embracing the “long-view” while responding to a crisis can deliver serious competitive advantages.
We believe that this is possible by designing and implementing a world-class health and safety culture across your organization.
At ComplianceQuest, we recently published a whitepaper titled – The Growing Significance and Evolving Dimensions of Health and Safety in the Post-Pandemic Era.
In this paper, we highlight three key aspects of health and safety:
- Health and safety norms apply to not only employees but all stakeholders
- The need for reflection, reinvention and driving cultural change
- The role of automation and digital transformation
But before we get into designing – or redesigning – a health and safety workflow for the post-pandemic era, the first key step is to think of all the key aspects of your business.
Resuming Business Operations with Five Key Touchpoints in Mind – especially from a health and safety perspective
For organizations putting together recovery and revival plans, there are several considerations that have to be factored in.
#1 – Workplace Safety enabled by Automation
Ensuring workplace safety will certainly come first. When Cathay Pacific decided to resume business, for instance, it conducted drills for their pilots by flying empty flights for a month before the actual resumption to ensure safety and preparedness of its pilots and the planes. It also modified the guidelines and standard operating procedures to suit the post-pandemic era. Something like this has never happened in the past.
Businesses around the world are putting together new best practices to ensure health and safety in the workplace. This includes everything from physical distancing norms and effective sanitization controls to enough availability of task oriented PPE and processes in place to handle health and safety issues. Health and safety leaders are conducting detailed situational analysis assessments backed by audits and inspections to figure out efficient risk mitigation strategies, to check the spread of the infection and to prevent accidents and incidents.
OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and Resuming Business Toolkit from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention can be starting points to make your workplace safe.
#2 – Employee Health and Safety
From the perspective of your people, it is absolutely imperative to redesign procedures with a deep focus on employee health and safety. But, only that is not enough. In today’s scenario, people are also dealing with varying levels of stress. It is critical to pay attention to the mental well-being of your staff, in addition to training and upskilling them for the future.
Here are some key factors for health and safety leaders to consider:
- Employee health and safety, without a doubt, should be the topmost priority. To maintain social distancing needs, prioritization of how many employees should return to work based on their role and criticality as well as managing the physical space to let them work while maintaining a distance will have to feature high on the list of to-dos for the business
- At the workplace, sanitization as well as sufficient protection in the form of masks and PPE will have to be made available
- Social distancing could lead to escalated costs. Given the requirement for physical distancing, the office layouts will have to be redrawn, thereby reducing the number of workstations / employees in a given area.
- Their commute to and from work and the use of facilities at the workplace such as cafeteria, gym, shower rooms and other amenities provided by the organization deserves a vital amount of consideration while determining H&S protocols.
- Monitoring employee health and handling any illnesses including isolation in case of infection and the implication for co-workers should be factored in
- Incident reporting and management will become even more critical to protect colleagues and organizations must adopt a robust and an effective incident reporting mechanism that is void of any leakages
- With these, there also arise concerns about discriminatory practices against a Covid-infected or recovering patient that need to be prevented through sensitization and other awareness programs
- Health and Safety heads are also trying to address the risk that remote working / working from home poses, helping employees identify those risks, making them aware of the potential hazards, monitoring, etc.
HR leaders are grappling with how to boost employee morale and productivity, as people are getting used to this new way of work and life. People in the HR functions are focusing on the following aspects:
- Managing remote employees, their physical and mental health, and ensuring productivity
- Reskilling them to perform efficiently after a period of being away from work and working remotely
- Training them to work in the post-Covid-19 lockdown period with an enhanced safety mindset
#3 – Working with Suppliers, Partners, and Consultants
One of the biggest challenges businesses face today in terms of resuming operations revolves around supplier management. It calls for a renewed approach to supply chain management, forcing supply chain managers and leaders to rebuild their supplier network for the next normal. It is important to re-board and re-qualify old suppliers, while also onboarding new suppliers as needed.
Once suppliers are on-boarded, they have to be ready to work with the customer to follow enhanced quality and safety practices. Manufacturers are looking to build resilient supply chains for the future, and an automated supplier management system is a crucial first step.
Business leaders also have to clearly document a “success criteria” that’ll list down all key expectations from a supplier. A cloud-based Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) Solution, like the one from ComplianceQuest (CQ), will be extremely handy as the manufacturer-supplier partnership will now revolve around ensuring better product and process quality as well as workplace safety in addition to cost and delivery metrics.
In addition to suppliers, companies need to clearly identify and document a working place for consultants, contractors, channel partners, and other important stakeholders.
#4 – Re-establishing Connection with Customers
On the customer front, businesses will have to do the following:
- Ensure communication with customers to keep them abreast of the precautions taken by the business to ensure the safety and health of employees and business partners
- Implement new delivery mechanisms and operating procedures that ensure customer service with enough safety measures
- Engage an external / third party independent organization to audit the controls implemented and validate the effectiveness
- Seek inputs / ideas from customers, involve them in the process of rebuilding and by doing so you win the customer’s trust, eternally.
- Transparency in managing incidents, if any
#5 – Managing the Regulatory Environment
COVID-19 has also had an impact on the regulatory environment. On the one hand, the regulatory bodies were unable to conduct physical audits and inspections. On the other hand, they had to introduce changes to the regulations to improve workplace safety to meet the new challenges posed by the pandemic.
Keeping the disruption in mind and its impact on the supply chain, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced some relaxation in food labeling requirements to manufacturers and vending machine operators. It also stopped physical inspections of facilities temporarily and opted for tools and technologies for remote inspections. Since July 2020, it resumed domestic inspections and inspections of mission-critical foreign approvals and for-cause assignments on a case-to-case basis.
GMP/GDP inspections were to be conducted remotely except in exceptional circumstances, which will increase the importance of documentation.
The ISO declared a cancellation of its technical meetings, 275 in all, up to January 2021. The European Medicines Agency, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, and other regulatory authorities too announced relaxations as well as remote inspections to match the Covid-19 environment.
The changing regulatory environment also needs businesses to be suitably prepared to meet the new documentation requirements of the regulators. During a resource crunch, this can be a big challenge.
The only way to do this with efficiency is to take advantage of digital tools and technologies. Enterprise will have to invest in a cloud-based EHS solution, one that’ll enable ease of collaboration amongst your people. It must be flexible, scalable, and customizable as per your organization’s current workflow.
ComplianceQuest’s EHS solution is designed from the ground-up for the cloud. It makes it extremely easy to integrate with the rest of your business systems including ERP and CRM.
ComplianceQuest’s EHS will not only help you meet all regulatory requirements but also simplify the process of building an enterprise-wide health and safety culture. It’ll be a single reliable source when it comes to health and safety metrics tracking. CQ’s EHS will help you with building a health and safety process that continuously improves and scales.
Visit here to read the detailed whitepaper that focuses, in detail, the role of automation and digital transformation.