Since the outbreak of COVID-19, safety teams have been working overtime to mitigate risk, ensure a safe work environment, all in compliance with the employer duty of care obligation. But that work won’t end even when the pandemic is over.
Indeed, PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of staff. That duty of care obligation never ends. So, how to maintain the obligation in the midst of a crisis, emergency, or other business continuity incident?
Why major crises compromise duty of care
Well, unfortunately, that aspect of duty of care is usually the most difficult to maintain. And that might have something to do with Safety’s traditional focus on workplace hazards that are internal and unintentional: threats that arise from unsafe work practices, hazardous industrial conditions, or exposure to harmful chemical, biologic, or physical agents. The duty of care obligation itself originated from a case of unintentional negligence.
That’s not how duty of care is currently enshrined in law, though. Nowadays, the obligation remains operative for all manner of threats, internal or external. Not just pandemics, but violent acts also fall into the category of external threats.
For safety teams, those threats might be even more difficult to manage. Why? The response to violent threats has usually been the responsibility of Crisis and/or Security.
However, outright violent acts and other external security incidents (such as vandalism, theft, fraud, and protest) can and do compromise employee safety and wellbeing. As such, they must be squarely in the sights of safety teams.
PCBUs are failing to maintain duty of care
The data, though, suggests there have been major lapses, and that existing safety protocols haven’t managed to prevent major loss and compromised duty of care.
In the years right before the pandemic, security incidents ticked up as a top tier business continuity threat. In fact, 62 percent of organisations surveyed admitted feeling less confident in their ability to respond to location-specific incidents involving physical security.
Technology capabilities to maintain duty of care during a crisis
What can be done? Well, instead of a single intervention, managing occupational health and safety throughout the lifecycle of crisis takes a systemic approach. We think that approach can only be operationalised via a single, integrated safety management platform, in which PCBUs can report and manage all incidents and crises, major events, risks, and operations.
Key, here, are efficient crisis response and situational awareness. The right solution eases the incident management burden on frontline workers, by enabling planned, controlled, and automated incident response.
Automatic tasking and dispatching of staff also make crisis response more efficient. So too does the ability to assign actions to individual roles manually or automatically, according to the incident in question.
What’s more, the integrated safety and crisis management platform should enable teams to visualise the location of the crisis (as well as that of risks, people, and other assets) via fully integrated mapping features. Situational awareness dashboards for monitoring operations, facilities, and people also help teams achieve a common operating picture.
Those capabilities work towards helping PCBUs maintain their duty of care obligation during crises that might fall out of the traditional remit of the safety team. But there’s more to maintaining duty of care than that.
To learn more about bridging the gap between safety management and crisis, download our free Guide to Ensuring Worker Wellbeing During Crises and Business Continuity Incidents: