Risk Management: Everyone's Responsibility
Overcast. Cold. Sleeting. Roger walks into the lobby of his office as he does every workday. Suddenly, he feels an incredible pain in his right knee and a throbbing pain in his head. He also realizes he’s looking up at the ceiling. As he is bundled up into the ambulance, the facility manager realizes that if the wet floors in the lobby had been mopped this could have been avoided.
Properly managing a facility’s risk makes financial sense, but most importantly greatly increases safety. Because facility-related non-safe events are low frequency (if they are not low frequency, there is a greater issue in play), they are given short shrift in funding and performance. However, these low frequency events can have high consequences.
Imagine a fire alarm system doesn’t work. At the least there will be much more property damage than should have occurred. At the worst, some staff or visitors may be trapped, injured or killed.
Or, look at Roger’s accident. Slip, trips, and falls cause the most common workplace injuries. In this case, Roger was injured with a torn ACL and a small concussion. Out for eight weeks, worker’s comp picked up all of his expenses. The human cost should always be the first concern; but the financial cost will inevitably be raised. A bump in workers comp rate, a small settlement, and a disruption in the workflow of which Roger was a team member all, individually, exceed the cost of preventive measures.
And that is the bottom line … proactive, preventive measures inevitably cost less.
Managing facility-risk is easy…
If you have performed a Facility Condition Assessment or created an Operations & Maintenance plan, risk management becomes very straight forward. Identify life safety components and common risk areas. Identify critical assets. Create a checklist and identify frequency of inspection. Fire extinguishers - monthly. Ground-fault circuit interrupters - monthly. Emergency lights - monthly. Fire sprinklers – quarterly. Et cetera. Then, structure the systems to be inspected in an organized, logical flow through the facility. This ensures consistency and accuracy while at the same time minimizing the time needed.
Frequency should be monthly at a minimum. Inspection reports should be maintained to serve as a resource in case an incident occurs; they will show a good faith effort was made to minimize hazards. This, of course, assumes that deficiencies were acted upon. Just identifying risks is not good enough. The risks need to be mitigated in a timely manner. Interim mitigation such as cordoning off an area can be a responsible action. To deeper dive is to then identify the cause of the deficiency and remedy that issue.
Recruit everyone to help…
To be truly effective a system needs to be developed in which anyone can report an issue. Do not rely on a single staffer performing a monthly inspection. Some deficiencies cannot wait a month. To ensure the system is used, feedback to the requester is important. Many communications programs break down because the people who initiate contact do not receive any follow-up and thus, feel it is a waste of time to use the reporting system in place. Everyone should be the eyes of the organization when it comes to potential hazards.
Risk is not just deficiencies or conditions which can lead to personal injury. For example, few building owners / facility managers have a roof maintenance program. But what would the consequences be if, because roof drains were not cleared, a large leak occurred above the server room? Or a bank of workstations? The disruption and cost to the organization could be many multiples of what it would cost to be proactive.
There are certain recurring events for which preparations can be made. In areas prone to tornadoes it should be pro forma to secure awnings and lightweight outdoor furniture and accessories. In areas prone to flooding, propane tanks and other storage vessels should be securely lashed down. In areas prone to heavy rains, the aforementioned roof drains should be cleared.
Risk management is an important function to keep staff and visitors safe; risk management also minimizes potential lost productivity, property damage and business disruption. Identify assets; define critical areas; develop inspection forms; use the forms with the appropriate frequency; and mitigate risks identified in a timely manner. It really is that simple.
For more information on developing a risk management program, contact me at Dowler@DowlerConstruction.com.