Disease Planning – Timely Reminder
You will probably be aware from the news of a new coronavirus which is emerging in China - known as 2019-nCoV. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently considering whether to declare an international public health emergency over the virus - as it did with swine flu and Ebola.
It’s important to avoid overreaction until more is known and the WHO make an announcement (although no doubt it’s the kind of story the tabloid press may have a field day with!) but it’s always good to remind ourselves of business resilience and continuity planning for pandemic.
Here are a few useful points
1. Take health information from official sources, such as World Health Organisation, Public Health England, other government sources. Ignore the tabloid press or any organisation trying to sell products related to the outbreak.
2. Understand the characteristics of the virus, especially how it spreads. By understanding how the virus works, and making reference to official public health advice (i.e. measures they advise to treat and control the spread), you can plan your strategy for dealing with it.
3. There are usually unknowns, even by the experts dealing with it; be aware that viruses can mutate and develop into a different disease or virus. Look out for any mutation being announced, as it may change the advice on how to treat and deal with it.
4. Consider and anticipate the potential impact on your business:
Minimise spread (as far as possible) and make sure you are taking all reasonable and practical measures to do this; increased cleaning regimes and personal hygiene materials should be readily available around work areas and desks.
Make sure you have a robust and sensitive procedure for anyone who exhibits symptoms whilst in the workplace, including training first aiders in looking out for symptoms. Take professional medical advice if you are unsure (obviously dial 999 if appropriate).
If you are aware you have vulnerable employees, consider any extra protection measures, such as working separately or from home if possible.
A robust communication strategy is key to managing the fear; this is one of the biggest challenges, especially when the media are prone to sensationalising situations. Any response must be measured and fitting for the business impact, and must reflect the stage the virus is at in the world at large. Remember: you have a duty of care to keep people accurately informed about outbreaks in the workplace, via appropriate methods of communication; any individual cases or concerns should be dealt with swiftly and tactfully (and confidentially, if appropriate).
Review your home working policy; make sure all staff and managers are aware of it.
Understand your critical processes and check whether critical teams or staff work from home and do they have the technical capability? Also, are there an GDPR implications to overcome?
To avoid over reaction (causing unnecessary anxiety) or under reaction (not fulfilling your duty of care responsibilities) your business continuity response should be a staged approach to planning based on World Health Organisation guidelines. Make plans which are appropriate and proportionate to the impact on your business and which are based on credible advice. If in doubt seek advice from a medical professional, or other official sources.