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5 Dangerous Myths About EHS Risk Registers

ehs-risk-register.pngEven though many companies use an EHS risk register, people still have a ton of misconceptions about them.

"It's just an inventory of risks." "It's a compliance exercise to check a box." "As long as you update it every quarter, you're good."

These statements aren't true, but people continue to spread them. We even hear well-meaning experts perpetuating these myths.

And if you're buying into them, you could be missing out on a valuable tool to help lower your risks and costs. 

Below, we'll debunk the 5 most common myths about EHS risk registers and set the record straight:

Myth 1: Risk registers are a waste of time

Used properly, a risk register can reveal opportunities for better risk management and inform decision making within your organization.

However, the way many organizations go about risk registers is all wrong and can do more harm than good. 

Let's say your risk assessments have identified chemical spills as a potential risk in your company. On your risk register, you might record important elements like:  

  • a description of the risk
  • the likelihood of the risk occurring
  • the severity of the risk
  • mitigation steps/action plan

But, does it stop there? Or does your team actually refer back to it on a daily basis?

Risk managers should consider whether the risk register is useful and accessible to your team. One way to do that is to use risk management software, which makes it easy to drill down on the different risks and associated actions. 

Myth 2: It's the risk manager's job

In order to identify all potential risks and address them properly, everyone on your team needs to be a risk manager.

It's smart to involve the people who deal with these risks on a daily basis in creating and maintaining your risk register. 

To that end, your risk register should contain a "risk owner" field for recording who is responsible for identifying triggers and managing a response if the risk occurs. 

You can also leverage risk management software to assign and manage corrective and preventive actions and track them to closure. 

Myth 3: Documents and spreadsheets are an effective way to maintain an EHS risk register

A risk register can be housed in a document, spreadsheet, or database — but the best way to keep track of an EHS risk register is inside risk management software.

With documents, it's easy to skim over detailed paragraphs and miss important information. And it's hard to manage changes in Excel spreadsheets across large teams. 

Good risk management software, on the other hand, allows you to maintain your risk register in a dynamic dashboard table, so you can visualize your corporate risk profile and make proactive decisions.

>>> You might also be interested in: 5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Spreadsheets

Myth 4: We already have a risk register, so we're done

You know that risks inside your organization aren't static — so why would your risk register be?

Instead, a risk register should be treated as a living, breathing document.

Whenever you identify a new risk through your risk assessments, it should be added to your risk register. The risk register should contain fields for recording when the risk was identified and added, as well as when it was updated. And when you determine that a risk no longer exists, it should be marked closed or removed from your risk register. 

With traditional documents or spreadsheets, that type of day-to-day maintenance is cumbersome. Risk management software enables your team to capture risk, modify action plans, monitor performance, and make informed decisions on the fly.

Myth 5: It's OK for your risk register to be unsecured

Risk registers contain sensitive information and should always be properly secured.

A password protected Excel spreadsheet is better than nothing, but it shouldn't be treated as a replacement for proper document access controls. 

Furthermore, you need a way to provide the right information to the right people and limit certain information to other people — something that's not possible with a document or spreadsheet.  

Risk management software, on the other hand, allows you to choose who has access to which information in order to keep your data secure.

Next steps

An EHS risk register can be a valuable tool to help lower your risks and costs. Many risk registers start out as a document or spreadsheet, but there comes a time when spreadsheets can’t handle the tasks your team needs to perform. 

Download our free guide, "5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Spreadsheetsto see other little-known ways spreadsheets can contribute to data errors — or worse, put you at risk of a non-compliance event — and what you should do about it.