Ensuring industrial safety and security in times of COVID-19 and beyond - Episode 2

Ensuring industrial safety and security in times of COVID-19 and beyond - Episode 2

VIENNA, 5 June 2020 - The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with the support of Rostechnadzor, the Government of Russia's supervisory body on ecological, technological, and nuclear issues, has organized a second webinar on Ensuring Industrial Safety and Security in times of COVID-19 and beyond. 

The webinar explored administrative measures - government-imposed lock-downs, the shutting down of manufacturing plants, social distancing rules, and the increase in security and safety requirements for continued operations - to contain the spread of the virus.

Industry experts discussed legal challenges to the introduction of these measures, such as the levels of government and the respective laws they would need to change. It was recognized that policymakers had to balance the economic implications, and ensure effective communication between the public and private sectors. There was also discussion of how some companies raised concerns about the measures’ heavy impact on their business, while, for others, it was unclear how social distancing rules could be applied in their businesses at all.

Speakers agreed that a major challenge is to introduce these measures in a way to ensure each industrial sector is covered. In some sectors, industry has taken their own measures, albeit in line with governments’ expectations. Some countries’ infection rates have decreased as a result, and the initial response to these measures has been positive.

But, as Olga Memedovic, Chief of UNIDO’s Innovation and Digitalization Division, pointed out, as economic concerns worsened, support for governments’ response was diminishing. “These measures were not sufficiently informed by scientific and clinical-data evidence, and were introduced after the pandemic has occurred.” 

Memedovic added that the objective of the administrative measures was to prepare for health and national security threats, while considering the social, economic and political consequences of the outbreak.

Leisa Turner, General Counsel at the Eurasia division of Komatsu Mining Corp. Group, shared insights into the work of the hazardous mining industry where additional safety measures often preceded governments’ efforts. Both. Turner and Sigurd Robert Jacobsen, Principle Engineer for Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority, stressed the importance of collaboration and effective communication between governments, regulatory bodies and industries at both national and international levels in order to ensure the implementation of administrative measures aimed at ensuring safety and slowing the spread of the virus.

From the perspective of a regulatory body, Dmitry Yakovlev, Head of the Legal Department at Rostechnadzor, shared his experience with implementing administrative measures in Russia, both in the agency and at companies. He highlighted the role of new technologies in adapting inspection processes to allow for remote controlling and auditing, which require legal changes, but also necessitates a shift in regulatory oversight culture. Simplifying inspections could have positive side effects for companies to reduce the administrative burden, helping them focus on their core economic activities instead.

On the other hand, Irina Sokolova, Head of the Division of International Cooperation at Rostechnadzor, warned that the extensive use of technologies leads to cybersecurity issues. This issue will be discussed in the next webinar on ensuring industrial safety and security. 

Raising awareness of industrial safety issues is not only topical in times of COVID-19. The webinars allow UNIDO and Rostechnadzor to highlight safety and security experts’ concerns and advances the discussion between industry and governments, thereby identifying areas of improvement on both sides. 

For more information, please contact:

Olga Memedovic, Deputy Director and Chief, Business Environment, Clusters and Innovation Division,

UNIDO Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation