When catastrophe strikes

In May 2021, Health and Safety3 MinutesBy Tracey MurphyJune 4, 2021

Over the past year, businesses have had to focus on survival, adapting to working from home, changes in Covid-19 alert levels, reduced staff numbers, increasing staff numbers, shortages, new directions, and many more impacts and responses. It feels as if we are hardened and – at the same time – more vulnerable. What else could go wrong?

But, despite all we have been going through, we aren’t immune to more disasters in the workplace. For example, I am aware of at least two catastrophic fires on business premises in the last week of March. These immediately changed the way the business operated. There was no notice, no time to move, no time to set up in other locations.

In these situations, our first reactions are shock, horror and grief. With luck, there will be no injuries. If there are, this adds to the emotional load. From here, we need to pick up the pieces, decide what we are going to do and start to act. Ideally, we will have already considered a business continuity plan; this gives us a starting point.

What are some of the things to consider? Insurance is vital. It buys some time and takes care of the immediate financial pressure. Most businesses have insurance, but it is worth checking that the insurance is appropriate. We all hate paying for it – until we need it.

Workers need to be supported. They will be riding the same emotional rollercoaster as the owners. Added to this, they will be concerned about their immediate income needs and future work.

Similarly, customers have expectations and rely on you. Resolving their needs is important, particularly if you intend on rebuilding and want to retain them.

Contractors are likely to be called in to clean up and rebuild. The site still belongs to the business, and owners are accountable for the safe and healthy demolition and restoration of the site. You must quickly ascertain that you are using contractors who are not only capable but also have robust health and safety practices. Their plans and implementation must be reviewed and monitored.

With good planning and luck, we will not be in a situation where we are completely out of control. The best time to plan is before it happens.