How to use a crisis to embed a strong risk culture


Authored by QBE Risk Solutions Practice Leader David Dexter

Measures to combat Covid-19 are engaging the workforce in risk management like never before. This presents a golden opportunity to embed a strong risk management and resilience culture across UK businesses.

Catalyst for a revolution

As businesses return to work amid a global pandemic, we are seeing some really positive signs. Encouragingly, many companies are proving innovative and highly adaptive when faced with the challenges of Covid-19.

Employees, management and suppliers are pulling together, finding ways to get businesses working in a very challenging environment.

These positive signs also extend to risk management, where we are witnessing a significant change in attitude towards safety and health risks. Many small companies will, potentially for the first time, be consulting with their employees as they complete their risk assessments, and preparing a risk management plan to address Covid-19 health risks. They may not realise it, but they are employing fundamental risk management practices to create a safe workplace and maintain customer confidence.

Embedding a new safety culture

In an ideal world, the coronavirus pandemic would be the catalyst for a risk management and safety revolution.

UK businesses increasingly see the value in risk management, but few have successfully created a true risk culture that integrates the management of risk into the daily routine of workers. However, the pandemic has created an environment in which people are much more receptive to measures aimed at improving safety, while management are more aware of the need to build resilience into their business in consultation with their employees.

In particular, we are seeing unprecedented levels of co-operation around risk. Covid-19 has put employee and customer safety front and centre, forcing individuals to take responsibility for risk. There is a willingness by organisations and individuals to buy-in to new risk management behaviours and standards in order to take on a common enemy. Hopefully, any historical resistance to risk and safety management is being weakened as people experience the benefits of Covid-19 measures first-hand.

The question, is how do we harness heightened levels of risk management awareness and cooperation and sustain standards going forward. Organisations that capitalise on increased levels of employee engagement and risk awareness to create a strong risk culture will be more agile and resilient when it comes to Covid-19 and other unpredictable risks. We have already seen that the businesses with the strongest risk culture are the most adaptable in the unpredictable world of coronavirus.

Resilience toolkit

To help businesses manage Covid-19 related health risks and sustain a strong risk management culture going forward, QBE has developed a risk management toolkit, which contains a comprehensive package of guides, templates and checklists to help an organisation build a solid risk management framework, as well as address Covid-19 related risks.

The toolkit addresses key actions to manage coronavirus risks and comply with standards and best practices, including hygiene, surface contamination, Personal Protective Equipment and social distancing, as well as employee safety and wellbeing. However, the toolkit goes beyond Covid-19 and can also serve as an end-to-end process to implement a risk management framework that will help create a sustained risk culture and build business resilience.

Organisations that develop a strong risk culture will find it easier to maintain standards and behaviours, and will be better prepared for future unexpected events, including a potential resurgence of Covid-19.

Dedicated iAuditor risk management checklists

QBE Risk Solutions panel member SafetyCulture has created a dedicated suite of bespoke Covid-19 checklists available within their iAuditor app.

To download the risk management checklists CLICK HERE

Monitoring standards

Businesses and their employees are making huge efforts to make things work in exceptionally challenging conditions.

From the local corner shop to the factory shop floor, businesses and their employees are meeting new standards and changing behaviours to control the spread of infection.

However, there is a fear that old habits will return, and standards slip as people become complacent or fatigued. Adherence to standards and behaviours will be essential to maintaining resilience during the pandemic, and therefore a safe environment. Organisations will need to monitor compliance with standards and behaviours, identify potential issues and be able to act on concerns.

This is one area where technology can help. While no panacea, there are tools available to monitor Covid-19 standards, as well as help embed risk culture and resilience. QBE offers a number of select third party solutions through its Risk Solutions Panel, helping customers build resilience and encourage positive behaviours to address tangible problems like Covid-19. For example, QBE technology partner SafetyCulture offers auditing tools that enable organisations to monitor and measure standards through its iAuditor app, which helps companies return to business safely and maintain standards during the outbreak.

Future proofing

Risk culture and resilience is not a box ticking exercise. It is a state of mind, a risk management mindset.

For all its challenges, coronavirus may have created an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build resilience - at an individual site, organisational and industry level. If UK businesses can harness this change in mind-set it would be a hugely positive force for good.

Heightened levels of risk awareness and collaboration brought about by the pandemic are an opportunity that should not be wasted. The trick is to tap into it, embed it and build business resilience ready for the next wave of coronavirus, should it come about, and beyond. For many companies, Covid-19 will not necessarily be their biggest risk. A strong risk culture will build resilience for the long term and put them in good stead for the next unpredictable risk that waits just beyond the horizon.


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