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Risk Management Bulletin


By February 3, 2014No Comments

Reducing the risks your business faces should be the business of everyone in the organization. Unfortunately when employees and managers see a potentially risky or unsafe situation, they often fail to speak up – thus endangering fellow workers, not to mention the potential loss of productivity, revenue, and profits due to workplace accidents.

The reasons for this reluctance aren’t hard to find:

  1. Overemphasis on productivity. Many managers turn a blind eye to hazards because they’re focused on increasing production. Whether they’re making widgets or constructing a building, they perceive anything that might slow this process, such as safety control measures, as an obstacle.
  2. Personal experience of taking frequent risks without harm. A homeowner who has been climbing on his roof every fall for years to clean out the chimney with nothing but experience between him and the driveway will be unlikely to report potentially risks.
  3. Continuing risky behavior despite close calls. Think of repeat drunk drivers or skiers who won’t wear a helmet because they believe that they’re immortal.
  4. Workplace machismo. The ironworker who refuses to tie off at 28 feet up because “it takes away my manhood” remains the classic example.
  5. Fear of unemployment. An employee who refuses his supervisor’s order to operate a dangerous machine without proper safety precaution is likely to be out of a job.
  6. “System Creep.” Over the years, every safety system shifts inevitably from what’s right to what’s allowed. This phenomenon led directly to the Columbia shuttle disaster.

Because there had been several previous incidents of foam striking orbiters during launch, NASA came to accept these anomalies as the “new normal,” and the missions all went well – until they didn’t.

Educating all your employees to get beyond these attitudes should play a key role in creating a comprehensive risk management “culture” in your business.