September 15, 2009 | Dave Janney

Managing Risk

We talk a lot about managing risk from a business perspective; however, much of what we do every day involves assessing risk and making decisions, thereby managing that risk.

For example, every day you get into your car and drive to work.  Does that involve risk?  Well, it depends on where you live; I lived in Atlanta for 14 years and incurred a lot more risk than I do today living in Knoxville.  Still, we manage the risks we encounter many times without even thinking about it.  How do we manage that risk?  We drive the speed limit (as opposed to only doing it to avoid a ticket), we use our seatbelts, we make sure our car is in proper working order, etc.  The alternative to managing risk in this case means staying home in bed and never leaving the house.  Not an option.

In an industrial sense, we mix forklift traffic with pedestrians in our plant.  There is a great deal of risk with this scenario; however, the alternative may be to not do business.  We assess the risk and put measures in place to deal with it (Safeguards) such as barriers, walkways, forklift training, and so on.

Are some people more risk adverse than others?  Take this picture from this weekend; that is me, by the way, and while you can’t see all of the creature, it is my friend Mr. Buffalo.  How did I make the decision to put my hand 6 inches from his big ugly mouth?  I watched him, I was inside a cart (so only my hand was at risk), and I took the word of the guy that worked there.  It was fun!

Now take a look at the second picture; this is my wife feeding Bambi, yet notice the feed tray stays inside the vehicle despite the low risk.  Fortunately for Bambi everyone is not so risk averse (or she would starve!)

My point?  We manage risk without even thinking about it.  We also at times fail to manage risk and it comes back to haunt us.  What if we took all the knowledge and best practices available to us and applied these principles to our work; would this make us safer?  You bet.

If you would like to learn more about managing risk, attend the Safety, Process Safety, and Risk Management Track at the 2009 TapRooT® Summit.

By the way, speaking of knowledge, do you think I would have put my hand there if I knew Mr. Buffalo had escaped from his pen, really “should not be mixed with the other animals,” and attacked a little goat earlier in the day?  That was great information (shared with me after it was too late); let’s just say I would not have wasted my feed (or risked my hand) on this bully had I known.

See you at the Summit.

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