How to Rightsize Risk Management for Your Organization

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Safety professional man sitting in a shoe facility to look at his laptop and read about risk management

Risk management used to be considered a best practice for large organizations. Now, it’s an expected procedure.

Many small and medium enterprises, defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration as those employing between 100 and 1,500 people, are seeking to replicate the success of these large-scale efforts. But limited resources and expertise can make that a daunting prospect.

“Any size organization can develop and implement an effective risk management program,” says Pam Walaski, CSP, senior program director for Specialty Technical Consultants. “It’s a question of understanding the larger picture of risk management’s essential concepts, then rightsizing as needed.”

Are you ready to bring globally recognized safety standards and practices to your smaller organization? Walaski says it comes down to these five steps.

1. Understand Risk Management Standards

To advocate effectively for risk management, you’ll want to position yourself as an expert within your organization. Depending on where you are in your career, this will likely require some reading and training. According to Walaski, the ANSI/ASSP/ISO risk management and assessment standard series is a great place to start.

“You need to learn to speak the language of risk,” she continues. “A safety professional who wants to lead the effort to reframe the view of their program must be able to talk about risk sources, risk tolerance, trigger events, consequences, probability and similar terms that form the foundation of risk management.”

2. Seek Help From Safety and Health Experts

If you hope develop your team’s risk management skills and create what Walaski calls “risk champions,” consider completing a training program yourself. Focused and immersive safety education is the best way to remove distractions and retain key concepts. Supplement your learning by finding more experienced peers and industry thought leaders who inspire you.

“This level of study will help develop a depth of understanding not only of risk, but also of how to lead organizational change,” she says. “Each safety professional will naturally gravitate to certain people or groups for help.”

3. Lay the Groundwork With a Gap Analysis

The next step is to analyze your organization’s current approach to risk in general, and occupational safety and health risk specifically. During this process, you will reflect on your experiences, but you will also examine formal policies and documents. The results of this gap analysis will help you develop a customized risk management plan and facilitate a transition.

After conducting a gap analysis, Walaski says you should understand how your small or medium enterprise:

  • Gathers and uses information related to operations
  • Addresses market uncertainty and plans for growth
  • Creates and protects the value of its operations and assets

4. Convince Leaders Risk Management Is Valuable

For a risk management process to be effective, organizational culture and values must shift. Those at the top must drive and resource that shift.

“Trying to implement such a process with partial leadership support may be a waste of time and communicates a mixed message to the workforce,” says Walaski.

Your organization’s risk management plan will likely be funded and implemented gradually, so your dialogue with senior leaders must be ongoing. Before you engage with them, practice different versions of your risk management elevator pitch. Each version should address a different aspect of its value to the business.

5. Implement Your Risk Management Process

After working with senior management to develop and adopt an overarching policy, you can focus on implementation strategies. You will need support for any changes you want to make, so be on the lookout for others in your organization who have a passion for workplace safety or prior experience with risk management.

“Start where you are welcome,” says Walaski. “This is true regardless of an organization’s size, but it is even more important in a small or medium enterprise.”

Finding people who welcome risk management concepts and the team’s efforts will pay off, as word spreads faster in smaller organizations, she continues.

The practice of risk management improves safety outcomes and reduces incidents. Do not allow concerns about the size of your organization or your own experience level prevent you from making a difference. By prioritizing your education and rightsizing your risk management framework, it’s possible to achieve your goals.

For more insights, read “Rightsizing Risk Management For Small and Medium Enterprises” in the June 2017 issue of Professional Safety.


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