Not enough businesses have disaster plans in place and those that have are not testing them properly. That’s the stark message from Cardinus Risk Management following its Health and Safety Forum held in London last week (May 24, 2011).

Speaking to an invited audience at the head office of THB Group, parent company of Cardinus, Barry Holt, director of policy and research at the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, warned of the constantly changing political landscape and risk to employees in different parts of the world.

Barry looked at how our perceptions of different countries around the world have changed following unrest, civil wars and international wars in many regions. His presentation, filled with interesting anecdotes from his long career in safety and risk management, looked at several case studies and examined what was or could have been done to minimise the risk to workers.

Delegates at the forum were provided with a valuable checklist designed to help all organisations with expatriate workers. The list included acquiring knowledge and understanding of the cultures in parts of the world where staff are being deployed and the thorough testing of all procedures. Procedures that look good on paper but fail in practice are common to many serious incident stories.

In a discussion session after Barry’s presentation, an expert in kidnap and ransom from THB Group explained to the audience how kidnap and ransom insurance has helped many companies deal with this growing threat.

“We don’t recommend that clients advertise the fact that they have kidnap and ransom insurance, for obvious reasons,” he said. “But companies with cover get instant access to the very best people, trained in negotiation and handling this kind of incident. Companies with kidnap and ransom insurance are many times more likely to have a satisfactory outcome.”

Mark Preston, head of safety consultancy at Cardinus Risk Management, spoke to the audience about natural disasters. He described the impact and aftermath of hurricanes, floods, tsunami, volcanoes and earthquakes, looking at the cost in both human and financial terms. He also presented research on diseases, viruses and epidemics.

Mark compared the survival and recovery rates of companies with a disaster plan to those without. He also discussed the cultural and leadership qualities required in an organisation to help deal with catastrophic events.

Mark asked the audience: “Do companies assess risk in the proper context and look at the potential of these disasters happening? Do they operate on a philosophy that is largely based on the fact that insurance will cover them? Or do they have a wider view and recognise the human impact? Does the organisation look at prevention, rather than waiting for something to happen? And lastly, do they have simple, workable systems in place? If not, companies are opening themselves up in a big way to prosecution and litigation problems.”

Jon Abbott, managing director – ergonomics and safety at Cardinus Risk Management, said of the event, “Cardinus is proud to share its knowledge and expertise in disaster management with others. Events like this go to the core of what we do: helping to protect people from all kinds of risks in all kinds of situations. It’s good that we can offer our help and knowledge to all clients, applying the learning we have gained from those affected by recent events.”

Edited versions of the presentations by Barry Holt and Mark Preston are being broadcast now on CardinusTV, the online collection of health and safety and risk management videos at www.cardinustv.com. First time visitors will have to register to view them.

For more information about disaster planning and all aspects of risk management, phone 0207 469 0200, or email info@cardinus.com.

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