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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and other non-essential industries that were either required to shutter its doors temporarily, will be looking to make up for lost ground now that the Government has moved for a Conditional Movement Control Order (MCO) which will allow certain business sectors to begin operations starting on 4 May.
 
As most businesses gear up to re-open their doors, the threat of hazards, such as inadequate maintenance or electrical failures, which could derail business continuity plans, still looms large. 
Syed Zain Syed Noh, Head of Risk Management/Engineering of Allianz General Insurance Company (Malaysia) Berhad said: “The reality is that business implications stemming from COVID-19 are unfathomable. While business owners are focused on bouncing back financially, it is equally important that they continue to keep their business safe and secure.”
 
Previously inactive businesses should be looking into equipment hazards such as mechanical, electrical (primary) or pressure vessel breakdown, and service interruptions as well as facility hazards such as escape liquids (flammable liquid and leaking gas), fire, collapse, molten materials, explosions, freeze-up, and windstorm damage.
 
In relation to risk exposures, businesses should look into the following hazards and vital safety measures that may be relevant to their respective business or facility operations.
 
Combustible material
Combustible material has always been considered among others, as ‘fuel’ of the fire triangle, which literally means contributing to the development of fire. Combustible materials may include raw and finished goods, packaging, pallets, waste, dust, lint, oil, flammable/combustible liquids, etc.
Ensure that there must be a safe distance or separation of at least 1.5m or 5ft between electrical equipment and combustible material. If possible, totally remove the combustible material to a much safer place will be ideal. Electrical and mechanical rooms must also be ensured to be free from combustible materials.
 
Hazardous and Flammable material
These materials have either high corrosiveness, low flash point, Lower Explosive Limit (LEL), or even the adverse effect of spontaneous combustion, making it much more volatile to uncontrolled surroundings. Ensure that all storage of hazardous and flammable material (liquid or gas) is stored appropriately (i.e. cut-off rooms, safety cabinets, etc.) and are ventilated.

Pressure Vessels, Furnaces and Ovens
Such pressurised and firing equipment have the possibility to fail upon restarting, unless it was maintained in a ‘mothballing’ condition, i.e., to preserving the equipment for future run.
While the restarting for some equipment may take some time to reach to the optimum operating condition, what is more important would be to ensure that all vital components are thoroughly checked prior to restarting, hence visual and maintenance record inspection. This is as simple as checking the seals, piping connection and gaskets also plays a vital role, besides the checks on the main component of the equipment.
 
Continued Maintenance
Maintenance would be the key to continued business or facility operations. Some failures observed that lead to losses was due to the underperforming of testing / inspections, inadequate maintenance, failure to document maintenance actions, electrical failures, improper installation or construction and failure to adapt to change of function or use, among others.
 
Fire Protection
Fire hazard accounts for a majority of the portion of hazard risk. Hence the importance of a fire protection system, which acts as the first line of defence against such misfortune. Make all efforts to inspect, test and maintain all fire protection and detection systems to remain operational.
Allianz General recommends businesses that were left idle during the MCO period to undertake the following six steps when restarting its operations:
• Perform visual inspection before restarting power and other utility supply, machines, equipment, pressure vessels, furnaces, ovens and other mechanical, electrical and heating or ventilation type of machinery
• Check the surroundings of process and storage areas; ensure its free from unnecessary combustibles
• Conduct repairs where necessary before starting up
• Check and re-check on the safety interlocks to ensure that it is normalised and in ready status/mode
• Check against the respective Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) checklist and the last inspection or maintenance records
• Check that all fire protection systems are on auto and ready mode
 
“We are in the business of protecting our customers and as insurers, our role is to help our customers mitigate risks, more so in unprecedented times such as this. In a situation that involves prolonged business inactivity, preventive measures are key, and the focus should be on maintenance and risk mitigation. Business owners must realise that risk management and loss prevention is not only vital but essential,” added Syed Zain.
 
To learn out more about Allianz General products and services, visit allianz.com.my.

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