Covid-19 Risk Assessment Safety Audit
Published on : Monday 08-11-2021
Hemant Sethi elaborates how a Covid-19 risk assessment safety audit can help keep workplaces and factories safe.
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, most companies have had to rethink processes, drive changes, and implement measures to sustain growth and profitability. Though now the vaccine is here, industries will still need robust safety protocols at their manufacturing sites and offices to keep their workers safe and to ensure minimal impact of the third wave, if ever there is one.
For most manufacturers, workforces have resumed, with many workers having received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. However, industries would still do well to have a business strategy that incorporates additional steps such as having a Covid risk assessment audit to ensure that their people stay healthy and ensure business continuity.
Why do companies need a Covid-19 risk assessment safety audit now?
Most businesses by now already have a Covid-19 safety protocol in place, based on government regulations. However, it helps to have these protocols audited by an experienced and reputed firm. As it stands, over the past year and a half during the pandemic, safety experts have been consistently monitoring the information, learning from past assessments, and considering the impact this may have on the workplace. This new information and learning about the virus can influence how organisations see their emergence back to full operational capacity. These new learnings necessitate a reassessment of existing Covid-19 safety protocols for companies.
An audit involves very in-depth analysis and rigorous examination of processes. It helps benchmark and validates ongoing initiatives to deal with any potential health and safety risk. The assessment may be based on a host of areas including assessing risks, planning control measures, allocating roles and responsibilities, implementing, and maintaining controls, communication, and training, monitoring effectiveness, and reviewing and revising arrangements.
A Covid-19 risk assessment audit will also cover specifics on control measures including points like, how to minimise the risk of transmission, total avoidance of personal contact, health control, and surveillance, social distancing, personal hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), workplace cleaning, and workplace ventilation.
How Covid-19 assessment audits can help companies stay safe
Why is this important? Firstly, an audit ensures an independent validation that protocols and associated control arrangements are following the current government and sector-specific guidelines and that arrangements for continual monitoring of their effectiveness are in place.
Secondly, an audit can bring international best practices to managing the Covid-19 risk. This will appeal to progressive tenants who have a global perspective, and to whom offices with higher standards of hygiene and safety are important.
Thirdly, it demonstrates the business owner’s commitment to manage, prevent, and control transmission of Covid-19 and ensure employees stay safe at their workplaces. A Covid-19 assessment audit vetted by a third-party boost both client and employee confidence alike. Companies should seize the opportunity and implement these safety audits so that workplace health risks are identified, assessed and mitigated across the board.
What does a Covid-19 risk assessment audit cover?
A risk assessment framework involves covering Risk Assessment, Planning, and Implementing Controls, Roles and Responsibilities, Communication and Training, Monitor and Review. The protocol should be able to assist employers in ensuring that the risk of infection from Covid-19 is reduced as far as is reasonably practicable, in line with health and safety, and other relevant legislative requirements.
Essentially, a risk assessment must consider the following two questions:
1. Where within the workplace can people come into direct, close contact with others or touch potentially contaminated surfaces, equipment, and materials?
2. What activities are undertaken which give rise to the opportunity for transmission?
While assessing risk, companies should consider several factors, including:
a. Workplace configuration (set-up)
b. Workflow (Access to, and egress from, the workplace)
c. How people travel to and from their place of work
d. Operational activities
e. Level of workplace occupancy, and
f. Working hours (shift patterns).
It is recommended to conduct an analysis of workflows to identify where products, items, and people move through the workplace. Use floor plans or site layout plans to identify locations where people might interact or assemble. From this companies will be to identify contact points or potential congestion hot spots where there may be an increased risk of transmission
Bracing for the future
Industry experts agree that the focus on safety, health, sustainability, and cost reduction is already shaping the strategy of most companies for 2022. Several businesses have already made significant investments in upgrading safety protocols across their premises. Even with the rollout of the vaccine, safety and health will continue to be factors determining occupier preferences. Hence in the months to follow, as India braces for any impending third wave, the manufacturing sector would stand to benefit by ensuring that their safety protocols continue to remain in place. This can be achieved by having a proactive and robust Covid-19 risk mitigation strategy monitored by an efficient audit mechanism.
Hemant Sethi is Country Head, British Safety Council. As the Country leader for the British Safety Council, Hemant played an integral part in managing the successful launch of the British Safety Council’s India operation. Some of his key contributions during this time include the recruitment and onboarding of a local team, growing the British Safety Council’s presence in the market and identifying the critical areas of impact (campaigning) for the British Safety Council moving forward. Prior to this, Hemant worked with British Airways in South Asia in various management roles in Commercial, Customer Experience & Operations.