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Adverse Event Planning in Fast Growth Businesses

Feb 06 2020

As your business grows, so does the need to up your health and safety game. Because with rapid growth comes increased risk to your business’ future and your employees’ health and wellbeing.

Implementing solid adverse event planning is an important step in preventing accidents and incidents.

Let’s explore why in further detail with the help of Pannone Corporate LLP. Pannone is a corporate law firm which helps clients to understand their business, identify potential compliance gaps and focus on practical solutions to the problems that arise from the strict obligations placed on employers by the law.

What is adverse event planning?

Adverse event planning is a structured approach to risk assessing your operations to ensure that you have a clear understanding of how unplanned events may impact the safety and health of your colleagues, customers and others who may be affected by your operations. 

If you think safety is expensive, try an accident.

This is what Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the Chairman of EasyGroup, said after one of his family shipping tankers blew up in the Mediterranean ocean near Genoa. Five crew lost their lives, and the Italian coast was polluted by Iranian crude oil.

Haji-Ioannou wasn’t found criminally negligent, but if he had been, it would have cost him $1 billion in claims. And while he managed to avoid paying this colossus fine, the ordeal took its toll: “’It would be wrong to claim that the experience did not affect me. It changed my life,” said Haji-Ioannou.

This epitomises the impact a severe adverse event can have on a business and its people, as Rhian Greaves, Associate Partner at Pannone Corporate LLP, explains:

“A serious health and safety incident brings extreme pressure to bear on business managers. Regulatory demands, operational difficulties, HR concerns and press interest are just some of the issues you’ll need to manage, along with the usual day-to-day pressures of running your business.”

After the Genoa incident, Haji-Ioannou reacted fast. Not only did he upgrade the company’s ships but he spent more money on crew training.

It appears that he learnt from his mistakes. But it’s not necessary to experience a similar ordeal to get to this point. With adequate risk management planning, you can stop adverse events from happening in the first place. 

“A good response is a prepared response.”

Strong health and safety management is essential to mitigate the risk of accidents and incidents,” says Rhian Greaves. She continues, “If you don’t get to grips with the situation early, to understand what has happened and take appropriate action in response, you lose the chance to mitigate the risk, to shut it down and to avoid a repeat.”

“Having clear and well-rehearsed procedures helps to mitigate some of the potential for human frailties and errors. It is far better to create your plan when everything is running smoothly and everyone can think clearly. When a crisis happens, you need to implement your plan without hesitation. Strong systems and the right culture will promote this.”

Here are Rhian’s key steps to consider when creating a health and safety management plan:

  • What does a crisis look like? Map out some worst-case scenarios. This may reveal some existing compliance gaps that you can plug to stop the event happening at all.
  • Who would be involved in managing the situation? They need clear guidance and training to support them through the process.

  • Are there any warning signs that you can use to help identify an approaching issue?  Monitor trends in your accident and near-miss statistics for example.

  • Would you carry out your internal investigation under the guidance of a lawyer?  This gives you the comfort of being able to get to the root of what has happened without fear of having to disclose the resulting report to the HSE.

  • Are there third parties you’d lean on for support? This might include lawyers, counsellors, expertise from suppliers, communications professionals etc. Make those relationships now so they are primed to assist quickly.
  • Create an incident response plan, train it out to relevant staff and keep its efficacy under review.

As with training your people, all of the above needs to be planned upfront as part of the overall business plan.

The smartest move for your business

Without adequate adverse event planning, everything you’ve worked so hard for can disappear in the blink of an eye. As Stelios Haji-Ioannou said after the Genoa incident: “You can be worth nothing just because of one mistake.”

Professional risk management and training is how you can avoid the consequences of an adverse event. For more advice on this subject, speak to a Vita Safety consultant today on 0161 486 5020.

You may also want to check out Pannone’s Academy course on Incident Response.

Of course, accidents do happen. If you are in need of specialist crisis management expertise, Pannone lawyers are accessible 24/7 and provide support from the moment an incident happens, advising on each stage of the investigatory and legal process as it occurs. To find out more, visit their website.