"The average person touches their face two or three thousand times a day." I remember being surprised by that when I watched the movie Contagion in 2019. "Three to five times every waking minute. In between, we’re touching door handles, water fountains, elevator buttons and each other." Science fiction, not fact I thought. I remember during the film trying to monitor how often I touched my face, and quickly realising how futile that was – it's one of those little things we do without conscious thought. Almost like breathing. Afterwards, I was a bit more aware of touching everyday items and mused that I should wash my hands more often to help avoid catching cold or flu. Science fiction though, right?

Fast forward one year and the messages from the film seem rather prophetic. We are now living with a global pandemic. Science fact, not fiction. And, as is often the case, the film didn’t tell the whole story – the reality of actually living with a global pandemic and the very real impact it has had on our day to day lives. How our world has changed.

Like so many others, my colleagues and I transitioned to full time working from home in March 2020. Our IT and business services functions made the transition seamless. We continued providing health and safety advice, dealing with litigation and managing incidents. But very quickly, we had to pivot to providing businesses with urgent, practical guidance on how to manage new and challenging operational risks created by the pandemic. Many organisations had to review their approach to compliance with health and safety legal obligations. The pandemic changed operational practices and created new risks not previously considered - from pre-COVID-19 low health and safety risk operations to ensuring colleagues and customers were protected from infection, to businesses with sophisticated SOPs that had to be revised to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

I am proud of the way our colleagues supported those businesses and helped them navigate the new layer of regulation that COVID-19 introduced. Our team of health and safety lawyers often help clients after something has gone wrong. It has been our privilege to help clients develop solutions to the issues the pandemic raised and help them get their response right - to avoid things going wrong. And that work will continue as we say goodbye to 2020 and welcome 2021 – a year we hope will be a bit brighter for all of us. A health and safety lawyer that does more than deal with legal consequences of incidents, that understands and works with a business on compliance, is a strong ally. Our team has grown and broadened its experience during the past year and we are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead.

So, as I reflect on - and prepare to say goodbye to - 2020, I wish all our clients a peaceful festive period and a safe and healthy 2021. We've learned a lot. We've coped with a lot. And it transpires that sometimes science fiction is not that far away from science fact.


Laura McMillan

Partner & Director of Advocacy