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Controlling your risk by Bob Carruth

As Risk Control Manager for the NCACC, Bob Carruth manages the operation of the Risk Control Team for the Risk Management Pools. The team assists members with development of safety policies and programs and identification of liability exposures and controls. Carruth is a Certified Safety Professional and is certified as an Associate – Risk Management.  For archives of this column click here

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Nov 30

Eat Your Peas - A holiday look at Risk Control

Posted on November 30, 2012 at 9:20 AM by Chris Baucom

“Eat your Peas!” How many times have we had our mom or grandma say this to us when growing up? As with other columns, I know you are probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with safety? Well, I was trying to think of a Thanksgiving and holiday theme for this month’s safety column, but this is as close as I could get up-front. So, keep reading as I try to tie it all together. Let’s talk about the three “P”s that you need to remember, which can help you as you manage your safety and risk management program.

These three concepts are simple to implement, don’t require a tax increase, and can save you lots of pain, time and money if you incorporate them into your safety management program.

Planning -Think through a new process, including safety and the risk aspects of beginning something new. New is new, no matter what it is applied to. How many times have you seen the “Law of Unintended Consequences” kick in? We often plan from the perspective of perfection; that is, we want some new program, process, or organization to work perfectly from the start, so we tend to emphasize the advantages over the disadvantages. It’s human nature to do so.

A major part of an effective safety and health management system is called “Management of Change.” This entails including a risk assessment at the beginning of a planning process, and involving safety and risk consideration in the design of a new program or process. By doing this, you can make sure that when a decision is being made, or a prior decision is being implemented, that the “what-ifs” have been considered. You can avoid a lot of pain and embarrassment by not leaving this critical piece out of your planning process.

Preparation – This is the logical next step. As I noted above, even the best plans go awry every now and then. You must be prepared for an alternate way to accomplish what your original mission was and also to have the resources on site or alerted to respond in the event “it” happens. Before undertaking a job, new process or program, determine what is needed to respond when things don’t go the way you planned – for instance, when someone’s life is hanging in the balance, it is too late to determine that you should have had the fire department on alert. Likewise, having a good “Plan B” can help defuse a situation that could cause a great deal of pain and misery to your organization.

Pause – The word Selah is a Hebrew word used 74 times in the book of Psalms. It’s a hard word to translate into English, but it essentially means to “pause and think.” Let’s admit it – for most of our day, we run on auto-pilot; that is we do most activities without even thinking about what we are doing. This can have serious ramifications on working safely. What kind of impact do you think the concept of “Selah” could have on safety in your organization? This pause could be any time from a few seconds to a full day.

The military often employs this concept when they have “Safety Stand-downs.” It usually happens after a series of small, or even large, mishaps, and involves stopping all activity to allow time for safety awareness to sink back in the individual and organizational mindset. What if, prior to every emergency response situation, the responder took just 15 seconds to think about what she is about to do? What if a social worker took 30 seconds at a residence before getting out of the car to think through what is about to be done, and make herself aware of the environment and possible things she could encounter once she steps out of the car? What if the general services worker paused briefly before cleaning the lobby floor in the courthouse, to think of the best way to complete the task while preventing slips and falls?

It is interesting that these three Ps can be applied in both organizational and individual circumstances, both professionally and personally. Let’s think of a scenario: Thanksgiving dinner – you plan by thinking of what everyone wants to eat to put together the menu. You make sure every detail is planned. If not, suddenly, when you sit down for dinner, someone is sure to ask “Where’s the cranberry sauce?” and you realize you forgot and left it off the list.

You also should have a plan for if “it” happens. Remember the movie “A Christmas Story” and the scene with the dogs eating the Christmas turkey? Well, stranger things have happened. If you are not prepared, then everyone is looking at you waiting for something to save the day. By being prepared, you can have the backup meal plan ready, even if it is to load everyone in the car and head to the local Chinese buffet.

And, of course, what would Thanksgiving be without the time we all pause for a moment to thank God for the blessings of the last year, or just to be thankful for our friends and family.
Now take some time and apply these three principles to your safety and health program, and you will find that it will make a difference. If our risk control team can be of assistance in helping to perform a risk assessment during your planning process, identify resources to help you be prepared, or provide more information on setting up a safety pause program, please feel free to contact us at the NCACC.

We hope that you and your family have a safe and healthy holiday season - Selah!