Tuesday 26 May, 2020

AMCHAM T&T: COVID-19 will require new crisis management plans

Businesses are dealing with new and bigger threats in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

With threats of financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management errors, accidents, and natural disasters, risk management is even more important to help prepare for the unexpected.

Speaking during a recent webinar “Navigating the Pandemic: The Usefulness of Risk Management” hosted by AMCHAM T&T, CEO Nirad Tewarie said companies will have to begin investing more towards improving their risk landscape which is changing every day do the pandemic.

“We may have to perform more new risk assessments and continually adjust control measures to contain those new or heightened risks. So, we must come together and start developing practical solutions – if we haven't done so before – that will start looking more closely into our crisis management plans and business continuity plans in an era of COVID-19.”

Tewarie said there was a need to rethink how risk is assessed and prepare for events that could impact businesses.

He stressed the importance of preparing to navigate these challenging times in finding safe and responsible ways to ensure that businesses can continue operations.

Feauture speaker, Nippin Anand, founder of Novellus Solutions - a UK based company with world-class expertise in Human Factors and Safety Management Systems, argued that it was extremely problematic to think only in terms of errors when accessing risks and safety management policies.

“There is very little value in looking at problems as errors, malfunctions, non-compliance, slips, and mistakes. We need to mature in terms of our language because this is where the safety science is taking us towards.”

Referencing the Costa Concordia accident which claimed the lives of 32 passengers in 2012 when the ship capsized after hitting a rock off the coast of Giglio, an island on Italy's Tuscan coast – Anand noted that the crew was unwilling to speak up against the captain despite obvious warning signs that the ship had veered off course and was too close to the rocks.

He said subordinates do not question authority because of the way society has organised the different roles and the value of the information that comes from the respective players.

“We talk about leadership and accountability. Let's try and understand that when there is a significant gap between the captain and the subordinate, between the surgeon and his subordinate, between the pilot and his subordinate, between the trainer and his subordinates. What sense does it make to ask these questions?”

“From the perspective of the novice, he feels threatened. He feels very uncomfortable that whatever he says would make him feel exposed as somebody who doesn't understand anything, as somebody who's incompetent. And nobody is really making up anything. This is how we have organised these teams under very tremendous pressures.”

He said employers should be sure to encourage "two-way conversations", to empower employees to come forward and collaborate on solutions to navigate the COVID-19 landscape.

Further, he said business leaders need to keep their focus on building a safety and risk management system that supports the outcome in relation to reality.

“Business leaders should stop counting on outcome after an accident as a way to say that you are a safe or unsafe organisation. In other words, stop counting on loss time incidents, casualties and breakdowns as a way to understand who is a hero and who is a villain. If you leave the outcome aside i.e. people getting hurt or injured, there is nothing really significantly different in a normal, average, successful operation and an accident.”

Meanwhile, Colonel Lyle E. Alexander, Chairman of the Port Authority of T&T said the future of risk management is dependent on companies becoming more encompassing and global in their learning, customer service, communications, medical responsibility, training (especially the soft skills) and with scenario planning and drills.

“What this pandemic has taught us is the risks that we face now literally can come from left field. There is no normal anymore and we are not going to go back to normal. So, we have to be constantly thinking if we want to achieve these business objectives, what are the possibilities and likely challenges that we will face down the road? Can we scenario them, and where possible, drill them?”

He said the Security Manager of the future needs to be more business-focused and solution-driven, creative and flexible, and consider taking the enterprise security risk management approach which uses risk-management principles to manage security-related risks across an enterprise.

He advised companies to establish a risk committee representing all the necessary areas of the business, ensure that cybersecurity is a priority with so many people working at home, and not to take for granted the human component of the business - their employees.

The “Navigating The Pandemic: The Usefulness of Risk Management” is one of a series of webinars that was envisaged and designed by the AMCHAM T&T HSSE Committee as a means to provide the necessary tools to help companies adjust to the disruption caused to business by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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