Five Ways Streamlining Risk Management Can Reduce Workplace Safety Incidents

Health and safety management processes are often separated from other risk management systems, making it difficult for safety teams to provide context to leadership about potential impacts on workers, customers, partners, and key performance metrics. This state of affairs is out of alignment with proven best practices for operational risk management, which call for a holistic, data-driven, and integrated understanding of risk across the enterprise. As the regulatory environment becomes more complex and demanding, manual compliance processes executed separately by each department have become deficient and costly.
Organizations of many sizes and types need to develop more systematic, enterprise-wide methods for assessing, mitigating, monitoring and reporting on health and safety risks. Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) solutions, which enable integrated risk management programs, are designed to help organizations strengthen business processes and reduce operational risks that impact safety, reputation and the bottom line. Where health and safety is concerned, the more closely organizational governance (such as policies, procedures and processes) and risk management protocols are tied to compliance work, the more improved all three areas will be.
Creating a centralized hub for managing and automating documentation, analysis, workflow, communication, and follow-up is fundamental to integrating risk management activities. Comprehensive GRC solutions that address health and safety risks at the same level as other operational risks (e.g., data and cyber security, fraud, vendors and supply chain, geopolitics, natural disaster) can help safety, compliance, and risk professionals optimize policies, controls, and reporting. When data is collected and organized centrally, it becomes easier to produce accurate, detailed analyses and reports, which helps safety leads communicate more effectively with stakeholders.
Streamlining risk management processes enables better decision-making and strategic planning that encompasses the full spectrum of workplace safety. Following are five ways that creating an integrated risk management program across the enterprise will reduce workplace safety incidents:
Communication and Collaboration
As the saying goes, safety is job number one. Communication is key to building a culture where worker well-being is truly a top priority. Bridging gaps between departments and identifying holes in safety protocols is only possible when collaboration is supported with enterprise-wide tools. GRC platforms enable better health and safety coordination between departments and roles by: centrally storing key forms and documents; automating and providing escalating process reviews; communicating changes, such as new safety procedures, quickly and efficiently to relevant audiences; and documenting activities for partners, clients, and external agencies that conduct assessments and audits. This all contributes to a more efficient, connected health and safety program: less time is wasted on duplicated efforts and sorting out confusion created by manual processes.
Risk Visibility
Without leadership and executive level involvement, health and safety will never be fully integrated into the operational risk portfolio. Risk leaders need to see operational, information security and third-party risks in context of the organization as a whole. Incorporating health and safety risks into this overall risk analysis not only increases visibility and impact of health and safety risks to executives, but also increases awareness and fosters a culture of safety at all levels inside and outside the organization. Higher visibility of workforce safety issues at the executive level yields more accountability and encourages all stakeholders to consider health and safety impacts in all aspects of the business. With a clearer picture of risk, the enterprise can move more quickly on opportunities and cultivate the resilience necessary to sustain growth and innovation.
Centralized Data Yields Predictive Insights
In the era of big data and advanced analytics, there are fewer excuses for being caught unaware. Repeated accidents are particularly unacceptable and are being penalized more harshly by regulators and civil courts. These instances can be largely avoided by consistent use of automated mechanisms for tracking processes and gathering performance data. Analyzing this data in relation to workplace accidents, near misses, remediation efforts, policy adherence, training efficacy, etc., enables health and safety risk leaders to identify trends and patterns and to monitor key performance indicators and key risk indicators.
Improved Accident Resiliency
Liability and risk exposure increase the longer issues go undetected and unresolved. Slow or ineffective response to workplace incidents can lead to repeating or escalating accidents, reputation and brand damage, higher fines, and intensified scrutiny from regulators. An integrated risk management program streamlines incident investigation, notification, and documentation for a better response. With technology support from a GRC platform, incident investigations are more immediate and thorough. With a systematic approach, lessons learned from an incident are more accurately captured and can readily be applied to related policies, procedures and controls to prevent similar accidents.
Workforce Input Enhanced
Integrated risk management programs help ensure that all necessary tasks are completed—and identify bottlenecks when they are not. For example, safety teams should ensure that all workers understand policies and procedures by tracking and documenting participation in required safety trainings, and by administering periodic tests or quizzes. Beyond policies and procedures, workers should have access to anonymous online portals through which they can convey concerns, warnings, or ideas for workplace and safety improvements without fear of retaliation. After all, no one understands the risks inherent to a particular job better than the individual performing it day in and day out. Visible mechanisms like reporting portals and effectively organized communications assure workers that safety is a top priority and management will not let critical issues "slip through the cracks."
It is clear that organizations cannot reach a mature, effective level of risk management without incorporating health and safety into their overall operational risk program. It's important to start with a careful, thorough assessment of health and safety management capabilities, data integration, and internal barriers to collaboration. Integrating health and safety risks into operational risk reports to executives and to the board will help raise the profile of workplace safety so it is more closely aligned with strategic planning, business objectives, and corporate responsibility initiatives. Robust risk management, integrated with governance and compliance activities, can save the bottom line. More importantly, it can save lives.
Sam Abadir is the Director of Product Management at LockPath, a leading provider of governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) solutions that is based in Overland Park, Kansas. He has more than 20 years of experience helping companies realize value through improving processes, identifying performance metrics, and understanding risk. Early in his career, he worked directly with financial institutions and manufacturing companies, helping them understand how risk management could be a competitive advantage. As a senior manager at Deloitte, he broadened his experience focusing on Global 2000 companies. During the past five years, he has worked with software companies such as LockPath to build the tools that help companies harness the value of understanding and assessing risk.

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