the risk management blog

Why Hope is Not a Risk Management Strategy

byLowers & Associates | May 05, 2016

Low-probability, high-impact events are something that most individuals and organizations would rather ignore. After all, chances are it won’t happen to you. Serious workplace violence events, active shooter incidents, and other unsavory threats are on the rise but it’s easier to assume it will happen to someone else. We don’t want to think about our own mortality or that of our organizations. Instead, we hope it won’t happen to us, to our employees, to our customers, or to our communities.

But then there are these facts:

  • 18% of all crimes committed occur in the workplace
  • Jury awards in workplace violence cases typically run in the millions of dollars
  • 70% of active shooter incidents occur in business or educational environments
  • Workplace violence is the number one cause of workplace fatalities for women

Fire drill: We’re only as prepared as we are trained and drilled.

In our view, modern day low-probability, high-impact risk management is akin to yesterday’s fire risk management. 100 years ago, organizations didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on fire safety. Then came the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster in Manhattan. It was a watershed event that resulted in unprecedented reform of insurance and fire prevention strategies to focus on the human toll. Fire sprinklers, fire drills, and the many other now familiar fire prevention practices put in place over the last hundred years as a result of that one big incident have resulted in a 90% decline in fire related deaths.

It’s the low-probability, high-impact event that you hope will never happen, that just might happen. And when it does you will likely be asked what you did to mitigate the risk. If the answer is “nothing” it’s equally likely that you will be faced with defending your inaction.

Look at workplace violence. Everything from harassment and intimidation to assault and homicide… If you could have done a background check but didn’t; if you could have launched an awareness program and didn’t; if you could have trained your employees, but didn’t; faced with a freak occurrence of violence in your workplace, you’re bound to have fingers pointing your way.

Becoming aware of the things we’d rather ignore.

OSHA requires employers to “provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” So what are the hazards you should be able to recognize? Where do those low-probability, high-impact risks fall?

When it comes to workplace violence, preparedness is the key and it starts with a deep assessment of the threats your organization faces, followed by a thorough workplace violence policy. Other components of an effective workplace violence prevention plan include:

Security survey and mitigation measures, incident management protocols, crisis response planning, whistleblower programs, and ongoing training.

Snapping fingers won’t keep the tigers away.

Being a good steward of business today requires organizations to truly get out in front of those high impact risks. Doing the upfront work necessary to identify threats and put in place strategies to minimize the chances of loss is becoming more and more important, especially as the damage to people, brands, and profits becomes amplified in today’s connected world.

Hoping it doesn’t happen is a bad business strategy. As many have said…, “Hope is not a strategy!”





Lowers & Associates provides comprehensive enterprise risk management solutions to organizations operating in high-risk, highly-regulated environments and organizations that value risk mitigation.
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