Don’t be the next Ruby Princess! Get work ready

By Melissa Teh, Melissa Teh
Key Accounts Manager
4 August 2020

With all of the uncertainty that COVID-19 has thrown upon us, life must move on, businesses need to adapt, children need to go back to school, office environments need to be restored. While the Australian government was aiming for majority of businesses to be back on their feet by July 2020, even with numbers on the rise again, are you, as an organisation, back to work ready?

As lockdown restrictions slowly ease, all of us must adjust to a ‘new-normal’. Here are a number of considerations for businesses if they wish to stay open:

  1. Wellbeing of employees and customers.
  2. Physical space – how do you maintain physical distancing of 4m2 per person at any given time?
  3. Hygiene and cleaning – how much cleaning is enough and what is ‘deep-cleaning’?
  4. Contact tracing – how do you control traffic and maintain visitor information?
  5. Staggering of work schedules.
  6. Use of hand sanitisers and personal protective equipment.

Whilst it’s great to have plans around these practical elements, the most important questions comes when you’re faced with an outbreak. What do you do when you are exposed to COVID-19? Let’s take a look at the Ruby Princess incident, to date, the most famous poorly managed Australian incident of the pandemic.

The disembarking of passengers from the Ruby Princess on 19 March 2020 after the global COVID-19 pandemic announcement by the World Health Organisation, is linked to 21 deaths, more than 200 cases, and has now led to a Special Commission of Inquiry.

Early submission of evidence includes how disembarkation was allowed because the ship had been assessed as low risk. In hindsight the re-assessment of the ship would have been medium risk, if the draft risk assessment procedures had reflected the update by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia released on 10 March 2020.

What can we learn from this?

Though plans and risk assessments are available, are they actionable? Have they become irrelevant and no longer serve the purpose for which they have been created? Do the right people know about the plans and assessments in order to be able to implement them? After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives. As much as businesses are eager to get back to work, can we answer the following:

  • Do you know how to keep your employees safe?
  • What are the processes and systems in place to keep your employees safe? How is this communicated?
  • Do you have the capacity and controls to monitor that people are doing the right thing?
  • How do you know what is working in practice vs written on paper?
  • How do you keep on top of changing guidelines?
  • How do you and your customers know you are doing what you say you are?

COVID-19 is a risk that will stay with us for some time. To address it, we have to control the controllable and minimise, as much as possible, any direct hits to our reputation and brand. When the inevitable occurs, can you confidently say that you have done everything possible? Or will you be the next Ruby Princess?

Don’t know where to start? Call PKF.

Be COVID-safe, not COVID-sorry.