Risk Management Is Everyone’s Job

By Ronald O'Keefe

When you left for work this morning, did you look both ways before you entered the roadway to make sure it was safe to proceed? Did you pull over before talking on your cell phone? Did you let the coffee cool at the office before drinking it? If so, congratulations on applying risk management principles to your day!

Proactive Decision-Making
Whether you realize it or not, risk management is an integral part of daily decision making. Webster’s Dictionary defines risk as “exposure to possible loss or injury and management as the judicious use of means to accomplish an end." When you combine these components, risk management becomes the management and means to prevent possible exposures, losses or injuries.

Unfortunately, our attitudes towards risk management must change from complacency to pro-activity for it to become an effective health and safety tool. How many times has someone walked over a walkway and not taken time to sand it when icy or remove an item on it that presented a possible trip hazard? Complacent attitudes, taking shortcuts and ignoring reality are what lead to incidents.

At the workplace, managers must be the influencing factor supporting risk management under all conditions so that losses are minimized. Proper risk management is a process that involves developing sound habits, following accepted safe practices and both establishing and implementing standard operating guidelines.

Risk management is everyone’s responsibility. Controlling risks through risk management involves five basic steps. Identify and analyze your risk exposure, develop alternative ways to deal with losses, choose the appropriate solution to your risk problem, implement the solution, monitor the solutions and change them if needed.

Budgeting for Health
In many cases, risk management involves behavior modification. Over the years, bad habits are developed and short cuts are taken when completing tasks that usually never lead to an incident. But it is exactly this type of complacency that will eventually get you in trouble.

Earlier this year, New Hampshire Local Government Center (LGC) sponsored the well-attended workshop Who Put Health In My Safety Committee? The half-day training emphasized the new concept of merging health components into worksite safety committees and highlighted some best practices of groups already doing so successfully.

Improving the health of your organization is also a risk management practice. The more healthy and fit we all are, the less likely an employee is to become injured or ill. Many communities already have budget lines for dealing with their safety issues—what about budgeting for employee health, too? Think of the costs associated with an extended injury or illness plus overtime, reduced production and possibly retraining another employee to fill in for their sick co-worker.

Risk management should be an integral part of every department—in every community. This means that it must be supported from top management to get the attention it deserves. It must also be incorporated into management practices from the development of policies to the purchasing of equipment. In short, risk management is an attitude that, when applied, creates a positive, safe and healthy work environment.

Ask yourself these questions:

Do I have an active Joint Loss Management Committee?
If not, why? Is it because upper management is not supportive of it or due to time constraints?

State Requirements
Keep in mind that New Hampshire RSA 281-A, Part Lab603.02 (a) requires that all employers of five or more employees shall establish a working joint loss management committee. Lab 603.03 (a) requires that the committee shall meet at least quarterly to carry out their duties and responsibilities, (e) review workplace accident and injury data to help establish the committees goals and objectives and (f) establish specific safety programs which shall include two provisions for health and safety inspections (of all town buildings/properties) at least annually for hazard identification purposes.

Consider the following questions:

What steps have you taken to ensure you are being proactive with risk management?
What has your community done to improve safety and decrease risks?
How have your community’s losses/claims been incurred over the past year or two?

Chaytor D. Mason, a former University of Southern California professor of human factor psychology, once said, “The only time you learn from the mistakes of another is when it ends in tragedy." Think about that while contemplating recent fatalities in the public safety and municipal field. Most could likely have been prevented had a more proactive approach to risk management been in place.

Available Resources
The LGC offers numerous programs and services to help your group manage risk. We can assist you with your joint loss management committee activities and conduct an onsite risk management survey of your facilities. Available workshops and trainings include Chainsaw Safety, Defensive Driving and Preventing Workplace Harassment—all designed to help you reduce and manage risk appropriately. For more information, visit www.nhlgc.org and click on “Training and Consulting" or contact your group’s LGC Risk or Health Management Representative by calling 800.852.3358.

Ronald O’Keefe is a Risk Management Representative with LGC’s Risk and Health Management Department.

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