Changes and ‘periods of change’ increase businesses’ exposure to risk and managing change is a key aspect of risk management.
Change may include outsourcing, introducing new processes, procedures or ways of working (such as remotely), changes in personnel or workforce, changes in communications or changing the activities or operations of an organisation.
Regardless of size, all businesses have risks, hazards and exposures present in varying forms, but many organisations fail to identify change as a good enough reason to review risk registers, risk management and business continuity plans. They will ‘get to it’ during their annual review…
Whenever a change occurs or is planned (or thrust upon you, in the case of COVID-19), risk management policies and procedures should be reviewed. Change can alter existing hazards or introduce ones that could pose a threat to your business activities.
The Health and Safety Executive, recommends a three-pronged approach to change management:
You should have written procedures for managing change and these should be implemented across your business. Consider how change is to be managed and get approval from senior management surrounding the change management process. Ensure you define and assign roles and responsibilities and get those affected by the change involved in the introduction of the policy. A structured approach which illustrates the steps in the process should be produced in the form of a change management system. Lastly, make sure everyone involved understands when this formal procedure should be used.
Assess the Risks
A risk assessment is imperative in ensuring that the organisation has the resources in place to manage change safely and efficiently. Short-cuts are unacceptable and could lead to a breakdown in the processes. Your risk assessment should consider every way in which activities required to manage the change could impact the safe operation of the business. Remember to include the steps in which the change will be achieved as well as the impact it may have on the business and be sure any action points are identified and tracked in a project plan.
Make the Change
Once you’ve ensured all the appropriate steps are in place and all processes are reviewed, you should begin to slowly introduce the change, preferably in stages. Be sure you regularly review and track the steps you’re taking throughout this period and identify any weaknesses in the process, so they can be fixed as soon as possible.
The purpose of having a policy in place to manage change is to ensure the business is as far from harm as possible while in a vulnerable position. While circumstances may be unforeseeable, it is worth having a plan in place, should the worst happen.