The Unintended Impacts that COVID-19 May Have on Critical Safety Systems
Due to COVID-19, the ‘virus’, companies have voluntarily and/or been forced to limit the number of employees onsite and/or extremely restrict interactions between employees whilst at site to limit the spread of virus. Obviously, this a good control to protect the health and safety of employees and the wider community from the spread of the virus. However, it can have unintended consequences on critical safety systems that are designed to operate with employees being at site and interacting / collaborating whilst at site.
One of these critical safety systems that can be affected is the Management of Change (MoC) system. This is because an MoC system is highly reliant of employees of various disciplines working collaboratively and interactively to analyse and assess a proposed change, including identifying and assessing the risk associated with the change. Furthermore, access to internal systems storing critical process safety information (e.g. piping and instrumentation diagrams, equipment design documentation, safety data sheets etc.) is also required. Depending on the complexity of the change, extensive interactions between individuals within an organisation are required. This typically includes face-to-face discussions, meetings, hazard studies etc., whilst at the same time requiring access to critical process safety information.
With many employees required to work from home or are limited from physically interacting with each other, organisations need to carefully assess the impacts that this many have on systems such as MoC. In particular, it needs to ensure that suitable other methods for collaboration and interaction are readily available (e.g. online conferencing tools) and that these are efficient and effectively implemented. Similarly, it is important that companies identify internal systems (both electronic and hard copy) that are used to store critical process safety information that are required to assess these changes, so that employees working remotely have the access to the necessary information required to analyse and assess the risk of changes.
R4Risk has expert knowledge in MoC systems and is well-equipped to assist with a review of your current systems. This will provide assurance that your MoC system continues to operate efficiently and effectively. This in turn safeguards your employees and the community from unintended consequences that may result from changes.
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