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Companies should make Covid-19 Assurance Assessments a priority in light of Omicron

Most businesses have remained functional during the current wave of the pandemic. However, they mustn’t let down their guard, especially when health authorities are finding out exactly what risks the Omicron variant may pose to human health.

covid 19 pandemic
The focus on safety, health, sustainability, and cost reduction will shape the strategy of most companies in 2022. (Photo source: IE)

By Hemant Sethi,

The Covid-19 pandemic driven by the Omicron variant has certainly underscored the need for a long-term business continuity strategy. While most companies have taken precautions during the past year to keep their staff safe, the emergence of new coronavirus variants highlights the necessity for a long-term approach to health and safety in the workplace.

Most businesses have remained functional during the current wave of the pandemic. However, they mustn’t let down their guard, especially when health authorities are finding out exactly what risks the Omicron variant may pose to human health. India’s top industry experts believe that businesses should stay cautious along with being optimistic. 

As Indian companies push forward in the wake of the fresh wave of the pandemic, a Covid-19 Assurance Assessment will play an important role in building business resilience.

What is a Covid-19 Assurance Assessment?

A Covid-19 Assurance Assessment is an audit designed to focus on five elements of business recovery and helps support the stabilisation and future growth of an organisation during a pandemic. It includes professional support, guidance, and independent assurance to help a company to develop and implement suitable protocols and arrangements within the workplace. All this would be done in accordance with current guidance and best practice as a minimum standard.

Broadly, the five factors that provide the framework for such an audit include:

  1. Organisational context and stakeholder profile (risk management)
  2. Operational processes (risk assessment, safe operating procedures, etc)
  3. Health and wellbeing
  4. Stakeholder engagement
  5. Facilities and workplace health and safety (workplace adjustments, etc).

In addition, it should provide a company with:

  • Risk assessment reviews
  • Support for workplace procedure development and reviews (including social distancing, health surveillance, workplace control measures, emergency planning, PPE, etc)
  • Health and wellbeing guidance (including mental health factors)
  • Communication and information
  • Leadership and behavioural factors
  • Assurance auditing.

Covid-19 Assurance Assessment Service helps companies build long-term resilience to risk

There is considerable benefit in undertaking an independent third-party review (audit) of COVID-19 policies, protocols, and workplace controls. A specialized audit like this provides a framework for organisations to develop robust protocols and arrangements designed to effectively manage the risk of transmission of COVID-19 as far as is reasonably practicable within their workplace. It provides a selection of specific types of control measures that can be combined to provide the best practical protection to employees and others within the workplace. The guidance is divided into two distinct areas, risk management, and control measures.

The assessment assurance process is carried out initially through a remote-based review of the COVID-19 specific procedures, risk assessments, and controls, with an option of on-site operational sampling as part of the review. Upon satisfactory completion of this review process, an assurance statement will be issued, together with a summary report and recommendations for improvement if appropriate. Specific areas of support and guidance can also be provided across the five primary elements of the COVID-19 guidance, in terms of development, implementation, and monitoring. The assurance assessment service then provides detailed technical support in the effective implementation of the guidance together with relevant sector guidelines.

Health and safety will shape business strategy in 2022

The focus on safety, health, sustainability, and cost reduction will shape the strategy of most companies in 2022. Several businesses have already made significant investments in upgrading safety protocols across their premises. Hence in the months to follow, as India carefully navigates its way out of the third wave of the pandemic, 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 audit mechanism.

Companies that have benefitted from a Covid-19 Assurance Assessment assert that it enabled a detailed evaluation of the safety systems and continually improved the frameworks and wellness practices adopted in the premises. It also helped in boosting the confidence of clients, employees enabling a safe return to the workplace.

(The author is Country Head, British Safety Council, India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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