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Hurricane Sandy

As I write this the full extent of the impact of hurricane Sandy is still being assessed. Four days after the event, people are still being rescued and the final cost in terms of lives lost and damage to homes and business is still far from clear. What is clear, however, is that the final bill, particularly in terms of lives lost, would be much greater without the pre-emptive actions taken to mitigate the impact of the storm.

Planning, prevention and preparation are a key part of any business continuity management system and have direct read across from civil contingencies planning. The activity begins with understanding the business to identify potential risks and threats to critical business activities both internally and from the external environment. It is in this strategic assessment process that risk managers and health and safety professionals have a key role to play. It is unfortunate, therefore, that in many organisations, occupational health and safety is divorced from the business planning process. Health and safety is often placed in a silo and little credence given at the strategic level as to the potential impact of major incidents on reputation, finance and operations. Instead, health and safety interventions are seen as a net cost rather than a potential benefit to the strategic direction of an organisation.

IIRSM, through its contact with governments, industry, business and health and safety professionals works hard to develop the recognition that occupational health and safety interventions need to be seen in a broader strategic context and that they are enablers rather than inhibitors. Risk managers and health and safety practitioners have an enormous contribution to make to business continuity preparations and need to be bought into the strategic business planning processes. Not to do so, has the potential to increase the opportunity for financial, operational and reputational damage. Want proof – then ask BP, Perrier or Union Carbide!

But, for the moment, let us think of those affected by Sandy and those who are working hard to help them.

Brian Nimick, IIRSM Chief Executive

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