Who Assesses Risk?

Covid risk management

Business has always been about taking risks. The original risk was that no-one would want to buy your harvest on the day at any price. Today there are multiple risks facing any business. The newest and biggest is covid-19 because its impacts are so wide-ranging. All business people need therefore to become very quickly risk assessment experts and use simple risk related tools every day.

Central to Risk is Responsibility

Any H&S adviser will tell you that everyone is responsible for good health and safety. It’s not good enough to just have a policy of no-one being within 2 metres of another. A policy is a statement of collective responsibility. It relies on individual responsibility to be effective. Each person must take responsibility for policing that distance and mutually accept the points where the distancing has to break down when they are unavoidable or lead to a greater risk.

Unfortunately, culturally we are no longer good at distinguishing between individual and collective responsibility. The change in going to work advice gave managers ‘hours to devise compliant workarounds to normal practice’. And to have, therefore, the responsibility if anything goes wrong or practically is unworkable. Hopefully they all used simple risk management tools and the government guidance.

Define the Risk

Covid-19 risk assessment is no different to any other assessment of risk. The first task is to define explicitly the multiple risks that could exist as fully as possible. If you want to devise a mitigation or to be aware of the risks then being specific allows the response to be also specific. At this stage the aim is a clear definition of the risk without any statement or consideration of any mitigating actions.

So, it’s not: the risk is covid-19 impacts on our business. By breaking into detail; the who, the how, the what and the why becomes clearer. For example on the who: what are the impacts on staff in various roles; on suppliers; on customers; and on each their wider families and households. Then how and on what are they interacting; is it face to face with a physical product or all digital on single user equipment. The Government’s 8 guides can steer your thoughts, but do go wider.

Rate the risk

All good risk assessors once they have the long list of the risks, then rate each risk for its impact and likelihood. Typically, these are on a 3-point scale of low, medium and high. Again start this is without any mitigation and objectively as possible.

If your sales team is:

  • a, mainly meeting clients face to face,
  • b, sharing a hot-desk office
  • c, holding weekly face to face whole team sales meetings;

the impact of catching covid-19 is likely to be high as is the likelihood if the risk is expressed as one risk. Splitting out a, b and c allows mitigation for the highest potential causes of spread.

Consider mitigation of risk

If the sales meetings c, were on-line on their personal equipment at home, the risk for that activity is low for likelihood and impact. This is mitigation. Equally don’t hot desk, but work from home reduces risk especially when combined with online team sales meetings. However, what might be lost is the team spirit, target guidance and keeping admin up to date. This is where the business considers what are the effective mitigation of each risk for its scenario. It can then adjust the likelihood or impact score.

The alternative might be don’t meet clients face to face, but do it remotely or 2m apart outside. (It’s safer than enclosed spaces hence not using public transport.) Doing all three is probably the greatest mitigation of the risk alongside an acceptance that sales will be down.

The risk message for all employees

Any employee needs to know how to assess risk by:

  • Clearly defining the specific risk
  • Rating the likelihood and impact
  • Understanding and assessing proposed mitigations

Good communication by the leaders of the business enable company risk assessments to be shared and understood. The challenge that the guidance might receive, enables effective systems to be put in place that protect everyone. After all we’re all active risk assessors now.