Business Continuity and Health and Safety

The Safety Networking Group session also included a presentation on the interrelation between Business Continuity, Emergency & Safety.

The presentation considered common terminology and attempted to clarify the terms and their application:

Local Disaster Management
Local Disaster Management is generally Local Government based with the aim of ensuring safer and more resilient communities during community-wide disaster events, by the identification and implementation of measures for the prevention, preparation, response and recovery to these disaster events.

Disaster Recovery Planning
A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is typically focussed on the recovery and protection of an organisation’s business IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster.

Emergency Management
Emergency Management focusses on the actions to mitigate the damage of potential events on an organisation and provides for the safety of personnel and, if possible, property and facilities.

Business Continuity
Business Continuity Management provides processes and resources in order to ensure that critical functions can continue to be delivered following a business disruption event. It is essentially about ensuring the organisation can continue to function following a disruption event.

Whilst all four of these areas are inter-related, they have different emphases and should not be confused. However, in most cases, staff and particularly management may be involved in all of the above areas in the event of an incident.

An important aspect of Business Continuity Planning is to identify the organisation’s critical functions so as to be able to prioritise them in any resumption activities. Critical Functions are those functions carried out within the organisation which would have a Catastrophic or Major impact on the organisation if the function was ‘lost’. These differ from Key Functions, which, whilst important to the organisation, can be put on hold for a period of time. An example of this would be the contracted delivery of goods to a customer as a critical function whilst internal audits would be a key function.

With this in mind, there was further discussion of the Business Continuity role of the Health and Safety Professional within an organisation. In many cases, health and safety considerations take on a lower priority during a business disruption event, with the priority being to recover business functions and ‘get back to normal’ as quickly as possible. This has the potential to expose the workers to risks not normally considered.

If the organisation’s health and safety professional is included in the business continuity planning processes, this would ensure that the health and safety issues are considered, and mitigated within the business continuity phases. Further, it would allow the identification of any potentially critical functions within the WHS department that are needed during business continuity planning.

In the same way that an organisation would include a financial element with a Crisis Management Team, so should the health and safety professional play a formal role during a disruption event. Health and safety considerations and risks during a disruption event would be similar to those normally experienced within an organisation, but would be exacerbated as tasks would be carried out under extreme conditions, potentially by untrained people.

Simple examples of this include office staff moving and carrying files and furniture to set up alternate business locations, staff working long hours with the potential for fatigue, and staff multi-tasking and doing work they are not accustomed to.

Whilst it is accepted that there may be a higher level of health and safety risk during a disruption event, comprehensive planning and the implementation of some basic health and safety controls will ensure the health and safety of works during a time when health and safety can often be overlooked.

Please contact QRMC for more information.