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Practitioner viewpoint - March 22

14 February 2022

With organisations now operating in different ways to how they did pre-pandemic, Louise Ward asks if our risk control strategies need to be revised.

INNOVATION SEEMS to be the buzz word in the midst of, what we hope is, the Covid recovery phase. You can’t move online without coming across a barrage of new digital tools and electronic gadgets, many claiming to make ‘new normal’ or ‘hybrid working’ easier, cheaper, more efficient, or even safer. The choices are many, and the marketing hype is bold, so how do you decide which one to choose?

The Covid situation has forced a pace of change that few of us have experienced before. In many ways technology and innovation have been our saviours. For example, the rapid development of vaccines and lateral flow tests kits which has helped us all return to a more normal way of life, and video conference and electronic collaboration platforms have become our ‘go to’ for both business and social interaction. There have been many similar developments borne out of necessity during the pandemic, and it’s heartening to see the improved funding and investment in research, which will I’m sure advance other areas of science and medical capability. 

But as we start to settle in to the ‘new normal’, emergency funding streams, both at national and business level, are already dwindling. Inflation is at a record level, and the global supply chain has yet to recover from multiple issues and set backs. So, we’re going to need to adapt our approach as we support the transition to what we hope will be a calmer and more settled period for both life and work.

Risk profile

Very few organisations will return to operating in exactly the same way as they did before the pandemic. Much has changed, and there is undoubtedly more change to come. This will alter the risk profile in our business, and prompt revision of our risk control strategies. 

So where do you start? For me, the key is to understand the problem you’re trying to solve before you start making decisions.

Rather than picking on a shiny ‘new thing’ that looks great and seems really exciting, go back to the basics of risk management. What are your key hazards? Where is the biggest gap between the existing risk control strategy and your organisational risk appetite? These are the areas to target with some new and fresh thinking, but again it’s not just about grabbing the item with the most inspirational marketing or the friendliest salesperson. You need to develop a detailed problem definition statement. What is the issue that you would like to resolve? What would the ideal solution look like? Who will be affected or involved? How much funding is available? How will you measure effectiveness?

Once you have these core components thoroughly thought through and documented, it becomes much easier to objectively assess potential solutions and to select the one most likely to meet expectations.

Of course, the pandemic has also driven in rise in entrepreneurism and self sufficiency. People have learned new skills, and revised and developed existing ones, so there is a new pool of talent to consider too. This offers the opportunity to develop solutions ‘in house’ rather than reaching for external or commercial options every time. People are much more likely to engage with things that they’ve had a role in developing, so it’s well worth considering the potential for ‘home grown’ options too.

Structured approach

While the majority of businesses have a firm commitment to safety, few have an extensive budget for safety, health and wellbeing projects. Taking a structured approach can help to ensure that we make best use of the resources available, and channel the available funding to the areas where it will deliver best value in terms of risk reduction.

Steve Jobs said “innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity - not a threat” and Albert Einstein said “if I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”

So, I think the key is to be open minded when considering new risk control options, but to apply a structured process, in order to ensure that the option you select will deliver best value in terms of overall risk management, resource efficiency and return on investment. Hopefully this will allow you to deploy the resources you have to deliver the greatest possible benefit within your organisation. 

Louise Ward is safety & sustainability director at G&W UK – Safety. For more information, visit www.gwrr.co.uk