The client is a major multinational energy company who wanted specific guidance concerning planning for their global refinery operations during a ‘flu pandemic. As well as the potential impact on the company itself, disruption to the oil supply chain has significant consequences for the wider economy as was illustrated in the UK by both the Buncefield fire and industrial action at the Grangemouth refinery. The project was made more challenging by the need to work across different time zones; the diversity of languages and cultures and the ongoing pressure that refinery staff were under. An initial analysis highlighted two important issues:
- Reducing manpower at a refinery very quickly impacts on safety; and
- It takes more people to shut down a refinery safely than it does to run it.
This meant that a decision to shut down a refinery would have to be taken before any obvious staffing difficulties have arisen. The plans therefore had to have:
- Well-defined triggers for a shut-down; and
- Detailed command, control and communication structures,
They also had to be effectively integrated into the existing company alert schemes.
Despite the difficulties described above, our consultant was able to facilitate the timely delivery of a set of standardised pandemic plans. The project then concluded with the delivery of a training session to assist the local Business Continuity Coordinators to better understand their role. Whilst nobody can predict if and when a pandemic may occur, the planning undertaken will be equally valuable in dealing with any other scenario involving significant staff absences such as extreme weather or industrial relations issues.