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Risk Management is Financial Management

Written by Stephenie Slahor

When it comes to risk management, everyone must be the eyes of the agency. From the officer, supervisor and clerk to the dispatcher, secretary and chief, anyone on the premises can learn to watch for safety hazards and report hazardous conditions.

Be aware of the characteristics of accidents, both in general and at your site. Think about what could have been done to prevent an accident, and what the underlying causes were for the accident. You’ll likely assume that most accidents occur in that nebulous area in which there is no policy or no special training, and you’ll probably be right. In actuality, about 85 percent of accidents fall into that category, and while administrators try to find a scapegoat on which to blame an accident, the probable underlying cause of the accident was just plain lack of forethought or risk analysis.

It is estimated that about 98 percent of accidents are preventable. About 15 percent of accidents are caused by hazardous conditions on the premises. Often there are signs that, at first, do not seem to be related to causes of accidents. But, on closer examination, they do show cause and effect. For example, the agency might be noting higher costs in replacement of certain items of equipment. That means there is a lack of enforced policy on use, return and storage of equipment. And that, in turn, means there is sloppy housekeeping. Sloppy housekeeping leads to accidents. Or, consider the agency seeing increased spending on major repairs to its vehicles. That means routine maintenance is being ignored. When that happens, little problems escalate into serious ones. That means vehicles are not as safe as they should be.

Gleaning information from many sources determines the causes of accidents and helps eliminates hazards. Get everyone involved in the process of risk analysis. Make reporting of hazards an easy process. Quite often, maintenance workers are good sources of information about hazards because they are often the first to spot them. Following are some more tips.

Transportation: All vehicles need a regular schedule of routine maintenance and repairs. Tire condition is considered a good indicator of the general condition of a vehicle. If the tread is worn, it may mean there is a lack of other maintenance such as checks of lubrication, brakes and steering.

Disaster and fire drills: Conduct disaster and fire safety drills at least twice a year. Have procedures for fire and for the hazards likely in your region (earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or severe winter weather). Document your drills in writing because it may be useful in court if the agency needs to prove it taught its employees what to do and had them practice those procedures.

First aid training: Give every employee first aid training at least every three years. The training makes the employee more valuable in knowing how to provide immediate aid to someone, but it also makes the employee more safety conscious.

Record keeping: Be sure safety records are filled out and maintained thoroughly and in a timely manner. Document maintenance, repairs, fire drills and other safety measures, and the training employees receive in any and all safety procedures.

Lifting: Back injuries are costly. Set a policy about lifting, when to seek help if a load is too heavy, and how jobs requiring repeated lifting should be performed. Educate employees in the policies, and document that education.

Risk control committees: Accident investigation should involve a committee because the input of many individuals often makes the truth of the accident easier to reach. Here’s a worksite example: People kept slipping on the pavement during rainy or wet conditions. The first impulse was to blame the pavement and weather, but when the investigation was sent to a committee, one of the members pointed out that cork-soled shoes were at fault in each of the incidents. That led to policy against cork-soled shoes, and that eliminated the slipping accidents.

Premises maintenance: Some systems need professional service for maintenance and control (e.g., fire extinguishers, fire protection systems, HVAC, boilers and electrical equipment). Outside experts in these fields should inspect the systems at least once a year and do the necessary maintenance or repairs. Document what was done and how frequently inspections are done.

Equipment: Check everything to be sure all safety features are in working order. Document those checks. People should be trained and qualified to use any piece of equipment, and their training should be documented. Policy should be in place so that if a person has not received training in the use of a particular piece of equipment, that person is unauthorized to use it.

Exits: Periodic checks of exits and emergency exits should be made and documented. The normal lighting should be turned off to see if the exit lights function in the dark. Doors should be opened completely to make sure they are not painted shut, partially or fully blocked, or locked from the outside.

Exterior: Look for hazards at the back and sides of the building. Are there piles of flammable debris, lumber or scraps lying around? Are those piles too close to the building? Is the paper collected for the company’s recycling stacked too near the building? Also, pallets should not be near the building because, in case of fire, pallets act as “flues.”

Fun: Even the fun side of work needs risk management. At one employee picnic gathering, someone brought a trampoline. Of course, some people were injured because of lack of familiarity with its use. That led to policy against such equipment at picnics. A pickup basketball or softball game also might be dangerous. If any of the players are woefully out of shape, there could be injuries, and that means liability. The moral of the story is that risks are everywhere. Use thought to find and eliminate them. Always be analyzing potential risks.

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at drss12@msn.com.

Published in Law and Order, Dec 2010

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