Safety Management System and Business Continuity Planning Considering COVID-19

Safety Management System and Business Continuity Planning Considering COVID-19

Nihan Gunes Cagin, Ozlem Senvar
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8189-6.ch005
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The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of individuals, businesses, and societies against the environmental risks. In particular, businesses have been caught flat-footed since it was an unanticipated and unprecedented crisis that impacted the most valuable asset of an organization: human resources. While incorporating the retrospective views on safety and risk management, this chapter tries to explain the significance of establishing a safety management system and developing business continuity planning from a contemporary perspective to protect occupational health and safety and attain organizational resilience in case of a pandemic or disaster. This chapter provides a conceptual overview and better understanding of safety management and business continuity practices to ensure survival and sustainability of organizations. To obtain insight and intersectoral learning, examples are given from the civil aviation sector that has been one of the most vulnerable industries during the pandemic.
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The terms emergency, contingency, crisis, disaster, catastrophe, interruption (Herbane, 2010), disruption, critical event, unintended event, and adverse event are used interchangeably in the literature although there are slight differences between them. Sources of crises are varied depending on the organizational and environmental context. They may be caused either internally or externally, related to various factors such as individual, social, economic, political, technical, natural, or health and safety factors.

An emergency is defined as a sudden, immediate, and generally unexpected event that requires urgent action, and a crisis is described as an unsteady situation including an important change that needs immediate action to save life, resources, possessions, or environment (International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2018a). Disaster Recovery Journal Glossary explains a disaster as a condition in which extensive human, physical, financial, or environmental losses have happened exceeding the capacity of the afflicted individuals, entities, or societies to react and restore with their own resources. Managing ‘high-consequence and low-probability events’ (Fuller & Vassie, 2004, p.27), such as pandemics, floods, earthquakes, terrorist attacks are generally involved in disaster management. Business continuity is described as an organizational ability to continue operations at predetermined levels after an interruption (ISO, 2018a).

Safety topic is vital during crises for the following reasons:

  • Firstly, a crisis, if not prevented and handled appropriately, may turn out to be a disaster, causing many life losses or serious injuries. There is nothing more important than human life, because, nobody can compensate for a life with anything. Increasing awareness of the value of human life leads researchers and practitioners to investigate how to maintain survival without any harm.

  • Secondly, crises may result in economic loss due to the risks of complete loss of or damage in vehicles, machines, equipment, and facilities. The ways on how to protect and recover organizational assets determines the success of business in long-run, since the organization may go bankrupt and unable to survive depending on the severity of disaster. An organization’s safety performance has a significant part in the evaluation of its creditworthiness and capacity to mitigate risks, through insurances (Li and Guldenmund, 2018).

  • Thirdly, crises may tarnish the corporate image. For instance, if a crisis results with the deficient safety performance of an organization, it will attract the media’s attention and negative word of mouth will arise. Nobody will want to transact with such an organization anymore. The organization will lose the trust of their customers resulting with a shift to competitors.

  • Fourthly, a crisis that has become a disaster, gives rise to legal and regulatory sanctions against the organization(s) and people involved. Top management and employees who may have any negligence or violation are legally responsible. They are subject to being sued and compensate for damages.

  • Fifthly, crises may lead to environmental disasters. Accidental release of chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants into the environment will decrease the survival of the organisms and quality of living creatures.

Because of these reasons, establishment of Safety Management System (SMS) and maintaining it through safety policy and objectives, risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion, together with Business Continuity Planning (BCP) through prevention, preparation, response, and recovery activities for crises are crucial from many aspects such as health and safety, loss minimization, continuity of critical functions, reinstatement of normal operations, organizational resilience, competitiveness, and sustainability.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Business Continuity Management: Management capacity of an organization to continue the provision of products and services within pre-determined time periods at preestablished levels during and after an interruption.

Safety: State of being protected from harm or damage.

Crisis Management: Development and implementation of an organizational response capability to an interruption in a fast and effective way to minimize damage in business activities.

Safety Culture: Shared values, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of all employees related with threats, risks, and safety in an organization.

Safety Management: Managing organizational activities by implementing safety policies and principles to minimize risks, and prevent accidents, harm, or damage.

Business Continuity Plan: Documented plans to respond to various interruptions, continue operations, recover, and restore the provision of products and services.

Safety Management System: A systematic framework to manage safety, involving organizational policies, structure, responsibilities, procedures, and processes.

Disaster Management: Management activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to a disaster, and recover essential services after a disaster.

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