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COVID-19 Resilience: Plan For A World Of Known Uncertainties Not A Second Wave

The recent coronavirus outbreak in Beijing makes it clear that in a world where COVID-19 is endemic, we will continue to see new clusters of infected cases, it’s not just a case of avoiding a ‘second wave’. There will be multiple new outbreaks as international travel restrictions are lifted and lockdowns eased. A single infected person travelling to a high-density workplace like the Xinfadi wholesale market can kick start a chain reaction which requires a new lockdown. But with many economies predicted to shrink by as much as 8% in 2020, governments can no longer play the national lockdown card. The economic ramifications are too appalling. What does this mean for operations, facilities and health and safety leaders? Plan for the known uncertainties you face from COVID-19. It’s no longer a case of unknown unknowns as it was in January 2020.

We know that COVID-19 is on a rapid path to being endemic in the world population. We know that people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease to other people. We know that temperature checks are not entirely reliable in preventing infected workers from accessing work sites. We know that relaxing lockdown rules will make it easier for infections to take place. We know that there is not currently a vaccine. We know that the citizens of developed economies will not be inoculated until at least mid-2021 – possibly never. These are the knowns. The uncertainty is when and where your organization will need to deal with a worker infected with COVID-19. From a risk mitigation perspective there are obvious parallels with hurricane season. Hurricanes are a known uncertainty. When? Which facilities? How severe? As a known uncertainty, regulations specify that certain industrial facilities need robust risk management plans for hurricanes. Anticipate the same with COVID-19 with applicability across all businesses.

This is no time to wait for regulators to come up with a baseline risk management plan. Now firms face a scenario of known uncertainties, integrated risk management systems can be put in place. The big difference? Due to the wide geographic dispersion of information on COVID-19 infections (all employees, everywhere, 24/7) and the need for close to real-time communication for exposure tracing, these plans need to be designed from the ground up on digital technology. The big challenge is to tie together the geo-spatial data collection, analysis and workflow into a real-time COVID-19 risk mitigation, management and reporting system. Firms like Everbridge with comprehensive crisis event management capabilities offer a large chunk of what is needed with their COVID-19 Shield. Safety-centric connected worker platforms such as the Guardhat system support additional usage scenarios around proximity tracking and remote expert support. Partnerships such as the Project Emerge deal between EY and Enablon demonstrate the potential to combine existing health, safety and risk management workflows and mobile data collection with configuration and advice to meet specific customer needs. One thing is for sure, COVID-19 will not be controlled with email, spreadsheets and single function mobile apps.

To learn more about COVID-19 technologies check out the Verdantix resource centre.

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