Cascade Occupational Safety and Health Conference featured keynote speaker Erike Young
By Aaron Corvin
Although they share the same goal of reducing workplace hazards, risk managers and safety officials stay in their respective silos all too often, saddling their organizations with inefficiencies and costs.
The solution: Enterprise Risk Management, a process that bridges the divide by blending the best of what both professionals do to not only curb hazards but also slash an organization's costs and bolster its bottom line.
Those were the upshots of a keynote presentation delivered by Erike Young, a workplace health and safety expert, who spoke during the recent Cascade Occupational Safety and Health Conference in Eugene.
Enterprise Risk Management is no abstract idea. The nimblest organizations are adopting the concept, which is rooted in data and replete with successful examples, according to Young, a vice chairman for the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO 31000 on risk management and global safety manager for Google.
"You've got to have facts to make it work," he said.
Part of what keeps risk managers and safety officials from working together is how they view each other, Young said. Risk managers, concerned with analyzing potential causes of accidents and minimizing their costs, see safety officials as part of their department. Safety officials, focused on identifying hazards and developing methods to control them, look at risk managers as mere purchasers of workers' compensation insurance.
To break down that wall, Young said, safety officials must take the initiative and build relationships with risk managers. That work includes learning to talk about losses in financial terms and showing risk managers how the Enterprise Risk Management model is more effective in reducing risk.
During his PowerPoint presentation, Young showed several examples of the model's successes. Some of those examples involved his previous work as the deputy director of enterprise risk management and director of environment, health, and safety for the University of California.
At the University California, Davis, for example, olive trees were shedding an oily hazard on campus bike paths, leading to accidents and tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs. One impulse would be to cut down the trees. But such a move would have missed the big picture, Young said, not to mention aggravated environmentalists.
Instead, the university took a smarter, more collaborative approach. It conducted a feasibility study that found it could reduce the safety hazard and cut legal costs by harvesting the trees and making a unique campus product: olive oil. That program remains active today.
Enterprise Risk Management is the tool to carry out such programs, Young said. The model breaks down barriers and requires people to get creative. Or, as he put it: "Think different."