Loss of staff and service disruption are biggest pandemic concerns

The main worries for risk managers in relation to a possible flu pandemic relate to potential loss of staff and disruption to customer service, according to a survey of AIRMIC members.

Asked to list their top two concerns, 54% chose ‘loss of staff through illness’ and 46% ‘inability to serve customers’. General economic disruption (26%), supply chain disruption (23%) and staff catching the bug from colleagues who have been away on travel (22%) came next.

More than three quarters (77%) of member organisations had set up a committee to review the current situation and nearly four fifths (79%) had appointed an individual to co-ordinate their pandemic plan. However, although 76% had a pandemic continuity plan in place, only 30% had access to anti-viral medication for staff.

About half the sample had already restricted overseas travel and a similar proportion were ready to implement a ‘working from home’ strategy if the situation deteriorates, whilst 18% have plans to restrict internal meetings.

“The issue remains, will there be a Swine flu pandemic, and if so, how severe will it be? The good news is that Swine flu appears to have relatively low virulence outside Mexico,” said AIRMIC chair Julia Graham. “The World Health Organisation alert levels do not indicate how bad a pandemic might be and Phase 5 is a reflection of transmission and immune vulnerability, rather than an indicator of the severity of the outcome - severity levels could change at any time. Organisations should treat current events as a ‘dress rehearsal’ and remain prepared.”

AIRMIC represents UK-based risk managers, including around 75% of FTSE 100 companies.